Childhood Obesity: Are You One of the Parents in Denial?


Childhood obesity  is on the rise, but do parents notice? They don’t seem to be concerned, and many are in denial. According to a recent study at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, half of all parents think their overweight or obese children are in the normal weight range. So, why do parents have a skewed vision of reality? Do all parents see their own children with rose-coloured glasses? Could it be because they are obese themselves?

57% of Parents Underestimate Childhood Obesity

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln study reviewed 69 other studies and found that a whopping 57% of parents think that their overweight or obese children are in the normal weight range. Surprisingly, these studies weren’t just from the US – these are parental perceptions worldwide. Interestingly enough, some parents have the opposite problem. 14% of parents don’t realize that their children actually have a normal, healthy weight, and think they are too thin! Parents obviously do not necessarily see their own children clearly.

I browsed some of the individual studies out there. A 2007 study from Brescia University College in Canada  found that Canadian parents often didn’t realize their children were overweight or obese. 63% of parents thought their overweight children were in the normal weight range. This study also found that overweight mothers were more likely to think that their overweight children were normal weight. Parents who are obese themselves don’t see their children’s weight clearly.

Much has been discussed about how to combat childhood obesity. It has been suggested that junk food should be banned from schools. Legislation  to limit the sugar content in processed foods sold to the public has also been suggested. The Canadian study I mentioned above suggested that family doctors need to do more to help parents be aware about obesity and its ramifications for their own children.

Parents can play a very important role in preventing childhood obesity. We know that children with obese parents are more likely to be obese themselves. It’s important for the whole family to maintain a healthy lifestyle – eating healthy, exercising, and maintaining a healthy weight. If parents keep healthy, they will be more likely to be able to identify their child’s obesity problem, and the whole family will benefit with better health. Alyssa Lundahl, who headed up the U.S. study, says that “‘When parents’ perceptions are corrected, they do start to take action and encourage their children to become more active and maybe turn off the TV and go outside and play.”

Is your child overweight? Do YOU see your child with rose-coloured glasses? What do you do in your home to prevent childhood obesity? Please share in the comments, below!

5 thoughts on “Childhood Obesity: Are You One of the Parents in Denial?”

  1. What a powerful post; WOW.. I’m not in denial, but my kids are not overweight, I watch what they eat and hardly ever dish up fast food or prepackaged meals, I always cook from scratch and they bring lunches from home. It is soo important to have a healthy diet

  2. Wow, this was a hard one for me to read! I have been “clinically” obese for about 10 years (I am about 60 pounds overweight) and I am seeing my daughter taking on some of my habits. She is 15 and is about 20 pounds over the average for her age/height. I am a bit worried but not in denial.

  3. I’m not, but I know a few that are. It’s so sad – it’s just plain abuse to let your child get overweight – I know that’s harsh of me, but that’s what I see. LET’S ALL CUT OUT JUNK FOOD STARTING TODAY!

  4. Those numbers are shocking, but I also understand why parents can be in denial. It is difficult to admit when something might not be right with your child. In my home, we try to eat a balanced diet and have fun with exercise, whether it is with sports, riding bikes, or even just talking a daily family walk.

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