WASHINGTON, DC (June 2, 2003)—Most “tweens” (children 9 – 12) give little thought to healthy weight, neither recognizing its immediate benefits nor its long-term importance. They relate their weight to athletic performance and overall appearance—not health.
These were just two findings from a groundbreaking study, published in the June Journal of the American Dietetic Association, that sheds light on the attitudes that children and their parents have on childhood overweight.*
“Neither kids nor their parents see obesity as a health issue. Parents tend to characterize overweight as a social issue, worrying about how it will affect their child’s self-esteem and acceptance by peers,” said lead author and registered dietitian Susan T. Borra, International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation senior vice president, director of nutrition. “Parents indicated that they have tools to deal with other risk behaviors, such as drug use and sexual activity, but not overweight. They also don’t see themselves as good role models.”
Borra said the study is the first attempt to gauge parents’ and children’s attitudes toward childhood obesity. Key research findings include:
- Children and parents both relate obesity more to food than to physical activity.
- Many children equate being healthy with following “rules,” bringing to mind somewhat negative images of “mandatory” fruits and vegetables or being deprived of their favorite foods. One child characterized healthy eating as, “Mom makes me have a piece of fruit.”
- Many overweight kids say they do not have much opportunity for physical activity because they tend to drop out of organized sports. “I hate gym. Skinny people like gym,” said one child. “These children and their parents need help in understanding what being active and fit means,” said Borra.
- Parents and children stressed the importance of encouragement and “small victories” as critical components of a successful weight management program.
- Teachers, who were also included in the research, believe family involvement is key, emphasizing the importance of family dynamics in addressing overweight prevention.
“Parents and children said they were stumped as to how to get started and what to do to address childhood overweight,” noted Borra. “Based on this feedback and our other research findings, we developed Kidnetic.com.” Kidnetic.com (http://kidnetic.com) is a healthy eating and active living Web site for parents and kids to use as a tool to prevent childhood overweight. The site addresses both the physical activity and nutrition aspects of weight management.
“This one-of-a-kind research led to the development of this one-of-a-kind Web site,” said registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokesperson Keith Ayoob, a Kidnetic.com scientific advisor. ADA is one of several health organizations that are partners in the development of Kidnetic.com.
“Overall weight management comes from a balance of healthy eating and active living, and Kidnetic.com was designed to get kids moving and make nutrition fun,” said Ayoob.
Along with the IFIC Foundation and ADA, Kidnetic.com partners include: American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Sports Medicine, International Life Sciences Institute Center for Health Promotion, and the National Recreation and Park Association. Information on Kidnetic.com was reviewed by a panel of scientific advisors. Funding for Kidnetic.com was provided to the IFIC Foundation through unrestricted grants from 13 food and beverage companies and other organizations.
* The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines childhood overweight as a child at or above the 95th percentile of body mass index for their age group.