Doctors Say Shaming Kids For Their Weight Could Have Serious, Heartbreaking Consequences

Ad failed to load

Fat-shaming is such an ingrained part of our culture that, if you're not at the receiving end, it's unfortunately easy to not notice it or to dismiss is as good-natured teasing. But such shaming — whether it's at the hands of family members or peers — can be particularly devastating for young people. That's why doctors are warning against shaming kids for their weight. Obviously, that should go without saying, but enduring jabs, straight-up malicious bullying, and even well-meaning talking-tos about excess weight have long been a normal part of life for kids who are fat. And it can have serious lasting negative effects on both their health and well-being, according to a new joint policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Obesity Society.

It's hardly news that obesity, the medical diagnosis, is a widespread and growing problem among kids in the United States, with one-third of those between the ages of 2 and 19 officially classified as either overweight or obese (though not everyone who is classified as overweight is obese). Just as strikingly, that rate has tripled between 1971 and 2011, according to the American Heart Association. But the resulting dangers to these children don't stop at the physical problems they can face as a result of obesity, such as asthma or high blood pressure. In addition, the shaming children with obesity face could contribute to negative behaviors such as binge eating, social isolation, and inactivity, the AAP/Obesity Society statement reported.

CNN on YouTube
Ad failed to load

The AAP and the Obesity Society are encouraging doctors to educate families about how to talk to and about their kids with obesity — as well as how to address their weight constructively. Perhaps the guiding principle of doing that is to highlight health and promoting healthy behavior during all conversations about weight. Also, it's important for parents and physicians to use neutral words, like "weight" and "BMI" (though BMI isn't always an accurate indicator of health), when talking about a child's weight, and avoid ones such as "obese." As Dr. Stephen J. Pont, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Dell Medical School and one of the lead authors of the policy statement, told The New York Times, saying "a child with excess weight" instead of an overweight or obese child can also make a difference. Using person-first language, where you say "a child with..." instead of "an obese child" is incredibly important.

Pont suggested getting the whole family involved in adopting a healthier lifestyle — through changes such as incorporating more veggies into their diets and nixing sugary drinks from their grocery lists — as a great way to avoid singling one kid out. It's also essential to always remember not to define kids by their weight, he said, according to the Times:

Ad failed to load

Additionally, there are ways for parents to leverage instances of real-life fat-shaming to teach kids — both those who with obesity and those who don't have the diagnosis — about why such statements and behavior are not OK. Another recent study, for example, found that many popular children's movies stigmatize fat and fat bodies. So, parents who watch such scenes with their kids can start an open and body-positive conversation with their kids. Dr. Eliana Perrin, who coauthored the study and serves as director of the Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, suggested the following dialogue to Reuters:

Ad failed to load

Such concentrated efforts to take kids' mental health into account when addressing obesity as well as to promote healthy lifestyles can only benefit them.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

7 Hilarious Differences Between Having A Baby In Your 20s Vs Your 30s

I was 24 when I had my daughter. And even though that pregnancy was neither expected nor pleasant, I was optimistic. Sure, I guess your 20s are "supposed" to be about finding yourself, finishing college, starting your career, and navigating less-than…
By Candace Ganger

Babies "R" Us Was The First Place I Went When I Found Out I Would Be A Mom

For years I struggled to have a baby, and the sight of toys and layettes made my heart hurt. For me, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us were a complete no-go zone, a reminder of everything I was missing out on. My mom would walk the long way around Target…
By Becky Bracken

New Moms Have Two Options: Be "Sad & Fat" Or "Desperate & Thin"

As the line goes, the worst thing you could say about me, I've already thought about myself. In the early postpartum period with my son, it was: "I am overweight, lonely, and heartbroken." It was four days after I brought my son into the world, and I…
By Danielle Campoamor

6 Fascinating Facts About Spring Babies: You Could Have A Leader On Your Hands

Does the season in which you are born affect you or are all seasons pretty equal? It turns out that there are many ways in which the your child's birth season could give you an insight into things to come. Whether you are expecting a baby in the next…
By Shari Maurer

Kids Will Love These TV Shows & Movies Coming To Netflix In April

It's that time of the month again: as March draws to a close, Netflix gets ready for a little bit of spring cleaning. Though some TV shows and movies will have to find homes elsewhere, their departure makes room for all kinds of exciting new media. A…
By Megan Walsh

I'm A Stay-At-Home Mom &, Face It, These 11 Stereotypes Are Totally True

Hello, friends! It's me, your resident stay-at-home mom. You know, there's a lot that's said about me and my kind, and the vast majority of it is not even remotely true. For example, this whole "we're lazy, vapid, unambitious, anti-feminist, backstab…
By Jamie Kenney

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s BS

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger