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Name-calling only lowers self-esteem, not weight

February 1, 2012

Staff Report

Childhood obesity — and related health issues — is most definitely a scary problem,” said Kent State University’s Dr. Natalie Caine-Bish, “but the use of scare tactics and name-calling will not help children to get healthy and fit.”

Instead, Dr. Caine-Bish offers a more supportive and motivational approach, as follows:

1. Parents need to be open with their children, but focus on health instead of weight. It is important for children to feel good about themselves.

2. Recognize that every child is different, which means the causes for being overweight and the solutions for losing weight will depend on the particular child involved and his or her environmental circumstances.

3. Use a multi-faceted health care response that includes a physician, a psychiatrist and a dietitian; it is essential to understand the child and the reason for the weight gain.

4. Parents need to be good role models, demonstrate healthy behaviors and not make comments about their own weight, size or personal body image. The best way to deal with weight issues with children is to make lifestyle changes as a family and not focus on that particular child.

5. Be age appropriate. You can talk more openly about body weight and size with an adolescent than you can with a school-age child.

Being negative — calling a child fat — does not help with weight loss,” said Dr. Caine-Bish. “A big concern we see is people who are overweight as children actually suffer from eating disorders in early adulthood at a higher rate than the rest of the population. This could be partially attributed to self-esteem. Food is related to people’s emotions, so many times people eat because they are sad or don’t feel good about themselves; attacking self-esteem does not help the process.”

Dr. Caine-Bish, Ph.D., RD, LD is an associate professor in the Kent State University School of Health Sciences. She is a faculty coordinator for the Center of Nutrition Outreach and directs a “no cost” community weight management program called K.I.D.S. (Kids Interested in Diet and Sport) for children between the ages of 8-16. Dr. Caine-Bish is a member of the American Dietetics Association and Society for Nutrition Education.

From the Feb. 1-7, 2012, issue

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