Talk to any new parent, and they’ll tell you that every ounce of their baby is perfect. They’ll boast about their baby’s status in the 90th percentile for height and weight, each new ounce that’s gained a badge of honor. And then, somewhere along the way, the bragging stops. By the time a child exits their toddler years, parents start to get the memo that being at the top of the growth curve is no longer a cause for celebration. The messages for adults and children alike are relentless: Bigger bodies are a cause for concern.
We frame these concerns as worries about a child’s health: Are they eating the right things — or too much of the wrong ones? Moving enough? Are they on track for the myriad different diseases that we are told come from being in a body that’s classified as overweight or obese? (Obesity, as you’ve surely heard, is on the rise, a health crisis bearing down on us as a nation.) But it’s not hard to imagine that even raising these concerns can begin to make a child — and their parents — feel as if something is wrong with them. No parent wants their kid to feel this way; it’s hard to imagine any pediatrician does either. And yet, here we are, caught between two fundamental principles that are too often, somehow, at odds: Our hope that our children love every inch of themselves, no matter what, and our desire to help them be their healthiest, most vital selves as they grow.
Families, pediatricians, and patients alike are grappling with how to navigate this minefield. What should doctors do and say? How can parents champion and protect their children? Will the new class of semaglutide weight-loss drugs be a vital tool or just another complicating factor? How do we leave behind the body shame and stigma that help no one and focus instead on the broad social forces that are shaping how populations — not individuals — find health? We won't pretend to have answers, but with so much at stake, we want to start with asking the right questions.
—Elizabeth Angell, Editor-in-Chief
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For parents of kids in bigger bodies, the pediatrician’s office can feel like a minefield. Seven families across the country shared their ongoing experiences navigating these conversations with kids at the top the growth curve.