Childhood obesity and the risks associated with it have been identified by the government and other organisations as one of the biggest threats to public health in England, and policies around food labelling and healthy eating have been set out in an attempt to tackle excess weight in children and young people.
This National Childhood Obesity Week, various organisations are aiming to raise awareness of the dangers of being too heavy in childhood.
But what if, as a parent, you don’t realise your child is overweight?
Parents play a big part in influencing food choices and availability, and their input is vital to creating healthy habits and reducing excess weight in children. Parents who fail to recognise that their child is overweight or obese may be less likely to provide support and encouragement for their child to reach a healthy weight.
How much of a problem is this?
Around 4 in 5 parents questioned for the most recent Health Survey for England (HSE) thought their child was about the right weight for their height. Most parents were correct, but just under 1 in 4 who thought their child was about the right weight was wrong: actually their child was overweight or obese. We see a similar mismatch when asking children and young people directly. New analysis of HSE published in the International Journal of Obesity shows that a third of overweight children in England don’t see themselves as too heavy.
This disparity between perception and reality suggests a lack of awareness among both parents and children of what the right weight looks like. Public health campaigns such as Change4Life are important in providing parents with information about how to make small, sustainable changes to live a healthier lifestyle. But how much of an impact do these have with parents who don’t recognise weight as a problem? Childhood obesity is a sensitive issue. Many parents don’t like being told their child is overweight, while others dismiss excess weight as “puppy fat” rather than a problem that may have long-term consequences. So the question is: how can we help parents to recognise what a healthy weight looks like in their children?