The CBC news in Canada ran a story called “Don’t Call Kids Obese; Parents Tell Doctors”

The article described how parents were concerned about the words and terms doctors used when describing an overweight child. The feedback that came back from the public was tremendous and everyone seemed to have an opinion about this subject.

There is a lot of conflict, blame, and insensitivity in the debate, none of which is helping the kids achieve a healthier relationship with food, nor does it encourage them to be more physically active. If we want to change hearts and minds, we have to meet people where they are, take them by the hand, and walk them over to another way of looking at things.

As a Certified Primary School Teacher and Yoga Instructor and author of the award-winning book, “What I See, I Can Be: A Guided Yoga Flow For Children”, I can understand why parents would be sensitive and protective of their children when confronted with an obesity diagnosis. There is a lot of stigma and shame around this health problem and other health problems.

Teasing in the schoolyard is one thing, but it is a completely different scenario when a doctor uses medical terminology to describe a health problem that is an indicator of current and future drastic health consequences.

I think there is a way to communicate to the family with an overweight child, framing it in a way that is positive and encouraging, while being professional in discussing the problem and solutions.

We know that self esteem is one of the key issues with obesity. Emotional eating is a well-known phenomenon, so being sensitive and compassionate with people really helps.

Many parents are time-challenged, exhausted, and do what is easiest. Food companies are happy to provide meals that are “fun”, convenient, and they seem to be a good dollar value, regardless of their nutritional value. Contemplating a big change in eating habits or exercise can seem to be beyond harried parents’ ability to cope.

This is how doctors can address this sensitive issue, and achieve positive results, while respecting the dignity and self-esteem of the children and adults involved:

1. Be supportive and acknowledge how easy it was for the problem to get out of hand.

2. Identify the problem and clearly state the facts.

3. Identify solutions together.
Change is the only constant in life. In a year’s time, either we will be in better health or we will be in worse health. Change can be self-directed and non-invasive, such as identifying strategies to create food plans for the week, shopping wisely, involving the whole family in the meal planning and creation.

Or change can come from an external source, and may be invasive, such as a doctor who mandates a dietary guideline for treatment of diabetes, or in an advanced stage of diabetes, amputating a leg. Making our own choices is always more pleasant! We can be creative by teaming up with another family in the neighbourhood and doing a week’s worth of cooking up and freezing.

Becoming more physically active as a family is a wonderful way to enjoy downtime and foster togetherness. Instead of everyone going into their own separate space to watch TV or play video games, bring the family together in the living room to do Yoga together.

4. Review the risks if there is no change.
It is the doctor’s responsibility to clearly communicate the risks if there is no change – and remembering that choosing to NOT change is also a choice.

Doctors could be asking parents for a “Family Health Action Plan” and hold them accountable. The doctor can then follow up with the parents on the subsequent visits to see what is working and where more help is required. Maybe doctors are not spending much time with families on this, but they should be doing it! Doctors are the last “authority figure” parents will listen to.

Our kids lives at stake, and so is their future quality of life. Parents are ultimately accountable for the state of health of their children, as they hold the purse strings, and are the leaders of the family. Becoming healthy feels GREAT, and this feeds into more positive behaviour from the adults and the children. What a great family initiative to work together on – Family Health!

Author's Bio: 

Janet Williams is a certified Primary/Junior Teacher, Yoga Instructor, and author of the award-winning book “What I See, I Can Be: A Guided Yoga Flow for Children”. Her mission is to help children stay healthy and fit through yoga, so that they may lead long and healthy lives.

To see more please visit us at