Do You Think You're Heavy? Do You Think Your Children Are?

The difference between alternative and commonplace is just that: the former is something not commonly seen – something that stands out.  But something commonplace is that kind of invisible standard; something we’re so used to that we don’t even think about it or take note of its consequences.

With two third of adults overweight in this country, along with one third of our children, being fat is now commonplace. In fact, more adults are fat than are slim. Extra poundage on our bodies has become the norm, as being slim has become something more rare – alternative, if you will.

Columbia University recently revealed a study that showed parents and children who are obese did not consider themselves so, nor each other. Over 200 (mostly Latin) women and their children were involved in the study. About two thirds of the mothers were overweight or obese along with a worrisome 40 percent of their children.

Eighty-two percent of the mothers guessed their weights as being lower than they actually were. Eighty-six percent of their overweight children did the same. This shows a huge gap between normal weight women who did not successfully estimate their weight (15 percent) and normal weight children (13 percent).

One of the principals in the study, Nicole E. Dumas, M.D., from Columbia University Medical Center, believes the reason for these incorrect weight perceptions is because being overweight has become the standard. With so many overweight or obese people, it has become the rule, rather than the exception.

Dumas said that there "…was a trend that showed that as women became more and more overweight, and then obese, the larger the misperception of true body weight was. Unfortunately, we found this was the case with the children as well."

Interestingly, in a world where skinny rules, most of the children who were shown many body types and asked to identify a healthy body size for their moms chose body shapes that were heavy.

Other experts in the field believe the study to be too restrictive, and lacking variety in terms of color, ethnicity and income but do agree that weight perceptions are a problem in the U.S. Dumas agreed that perceptions need to be changed. But how to do that in a healthy and realistic manner is still being evaluated.

My children's pediatrician mentioned that some of her patients' parents don't see their children as over-weight at all, despite panting after a brief bit of physical activity or becoming breathless after a short run or not being able to fit into clothes that are fitted with elastic waistlines. The same can be said of thin children.  I keep a quiet, low key eye on my children's development; including their weight.  I'm not sure what makes one parent oblivious and others aware but getting to the root of that quandry might be key. I am working with one of my children to keep her weight up since she is on the skinny side (37 pounds at the age of 6) and we're keeping her calories up without making her too aware of it. But her Dad and I noticed quite early on that she was a thin child who couldn't afford to skip so much as a meal.

I'm wondering if any parents here have been told their children are too fat or thin and were completely unaware of it?


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