Overweight children and teens are increasing much faster than in adults. In the 1970′s only 6 % of children were overweight, while in 2008 more than 30% were found to be overweight. The first step in helping overweight children is to learn how to recognize the problem. Most parents think their overweight children are “just about normal.”

Nothing can be done to help children and teens with their dysfunctional eating problems until the parents are willing to recognize and accept the fact that their child or teen is overeating, overweight or obese. No matter what the type of eating dysfunction, it needs to trigger a reaction in the parents to make changes in the whole family’s eating and drinking.

Sixty three of parents (higher if the parents are both overweight) fail to recognize their child is overweight or obese despite the child’s obvious physical appearance. Often they perceive their child’s excess weight to be a temporary problem- “baby fat” or a “stage” which they are sure they will “outgrow.”

Only 4% of parents report that their child is even a little overweight, when the over all percent in the country approaches 30%.

According to Health and Human Services, 7 out of 10 overweight adolescents will become overweight adults. If one parent is overweight it rises to 8 out of 10. Ninety percent of parents were unable to estimate their child’s weight accurately and most do not appreciate the health risks of childhood obesity. Some parents think being underweight is more important than being overweight. (A very old fashioned view). Some parents think their overweight child’s problem are no more serious than a “bad flu.”

Part of this blindness is the result of fears parents have about using pejorative terms about their children, made even worse if they too were overweight as a child. Even physicians are concerned with angering or upsetting the parents in these situations.

Doctors are even worse than parents. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic reviewed the charts of 2500 overweight patients who had just seen their doctor. Only 20% of the obese people were recognized as obese. Those that had their weight problem recognized were twice as likely to lose weight.
According to a 2005 study in the journal Pediatrics, doctors diagnosed obesity less than 1% of the time among 2-to-18-year-olds-a figure far below the one-third of young Americans struggling with weight.study in 2005 indicated that only 12% of pediatricians were effective in helping overweight children. It is a sensitive area on all sides.

Overall, just 9% of adults interviewed by Consumer Reports said that a physician had suggested that their child or teen lose weight. Among respondents with kids more than twenty-percent overweight, 51% reported that their physician had suggested their child shed some pounds. That leaves almost half of all parents of severely overweight kids not engaging in a dialogue with their family doctor about their child’s weight problem.

Waist Circumference in Children, more so than in adults, is a better indicator of overeating and possibly becoming overweight or obese. The metabolic disorders accompanying weight gain and the associated risks are more directly related to waist circumference than is the scale or BMI. Recent reports on the distribution of waist circumferences for children between 2 and 18 years old revealed waist circumferences values of 26 inches for 6 year old boys and girls and 33 inches for 12 year old boys and 32 inches for 12 year old girls were the cutoff between normal and overweight children. (The 90th percentile). Note that the normal child increases his/her waist line about 1 inch a year as he/she gain weight.
While data on waist circumferences is not as extensive in children as in adults, there is enough studies to make some generalizations. Pediatricians treating obesity usually make little distinction between overweight and obese, preferring to place the child into a category labeled “overweight” which includes both groups of children, since the treatment is the same.

It all starts with the parents. If they suspect their child is overeating or overweight, then they need to measure the child or teen’s waist line. If they are borderline or overweight, then they need to approach their family doctor with the facts. Nothing can be done until this overeating is recognized and nothing can be done unless their is a plan.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Lipman M.D, board certified endocrinologist, internist & weight loss expert has treated tens of thousands of adults, children and families with weight & metabolic disorders. He is the author of 20 scientific articles and has authored four books on obesity. His interest includes not only obese adults, but family with both parents and children that are overweight. He strives to treat the family as a whole.