BY AMY SLETTE, MD
Ascension Medical Group
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new set of guidelines to help pediatricians to reduce stigmatization and discrimination against children who are overweight or obese.
The AAP, which created the new guidelines with the Obesity Society, claimed that using stigma and shame-based approaches to motivate people to lose weight can worsen health problems for children.
In most cases, weight stigma among children is most often experienced as victimization, teasing and bullying. In the school setting, weight-based bullying is among the most frequent forms of peer harassment reported by students. In fact, according to the AAP, 71 percent of those seeking weight loss treatments say they have been bullied about their weight in the past year, and more than one-third indicated that the bullying has gone on for more than five years.
The new policy statement explains that the shame-based approach does not contribute to positive change and instead contributes to unhealthy behaviors such as binge eating, social isolation, avoidance of health care services, decreased physical activity, and increased weight gain, which worsen obesity and create additional barriers to healthy behavior change. Furthermore, experiences of weight stigma also dramatically impair quality of life, especially for youth.
What the guidelines recommend for pediatricians and health care professionals are to use words like “weight” and “body mass index” instead of “fat;” bring up concerns about bullying and discrimination during clinic visits, and help parents address that stigma at home and in school.
Parents and caregivers can play a big role in children’s nutrition and health, teaching kids about healthy foods, being a good role model and making sure physical activity is incorporated into each day.
Getting kids to eat right can also sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters. But experts say that a conversation can help.
Talk to your children and learn more about the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal.
Amy M. Slette, MD, is a Pediatrician with Ascension Medical Group in Rhinelander, for more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 715.361.4700 or visit ascension.org/wisconsin