Globe On 'The Dreaded Fat Chat' With Kids

I was left not only mildly worried about their weight, but more intensely worried that even those gentle cautions from the doctor might spawn eating complexes or compulsions in one direction or another.

So I read every word of today's Beth Teitell story in the Globe on the dreaded "fat chat," the difficult conversations parents have with children about weight. Every instinct tells me it's a minefield, but of course, that could be mostly me projecting from my own complexes. In fact, my favorite part of Beth's story is the no-nonsense, drill-sergeant expert:

Why pussy-foot around, asks John Mayer, a clinical psychologist in Chicago, and author of “Family Fit: Find Your Balance.’’ “Would you be ‘delicate’ to insist that your child needs to take chemotherapy for a suspected cancer??’’ he wrote in an e-mail. “NO, as a responsible parent you would say: ‘This is what you are doing to save your life.’ Why do we treat obesity and weight control differently when so many more kids suffer from this illness than they do cancer?? Let’s stop the rhetoric and take action as parents.’’

He also disputes the idea that being honest about a child’s weight problem might lead to body-image issues. “Am I going to give you a complex, or are you going to have confidence that good nutrition and healthy eating are a good parenting decision? Parents should stop being so delicate and insist on what’s right and what’s wrong.’’

Beth's distillation of most experts' advice is a bit less daunting:

Work to create a healthy lifestyle for the entire family and don’t focus on the heavier child and calories; don’t label foods as “bad,’’ as that can make them more appealing or lead to eating issues later in life; don’t privately or publicly shame a child by yelling at him to stop eating cake at a party; build exercise into the family’s routine.

This program aired on August 18, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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