Yesterday, I told you that children who are overweight perform worse than their normal weighted counterparts on certain cognitive tasks related to planning. This piece was a follow-up to all the very similar results in adults.
With parents always wanting the best for their children then obviously they would be on the watch for obvious to the eyes bodily changes in their children.
But us humans don’t always see reality (or we tend to put on the rose tinted glasses). A series of research paper have found that parents do not judge their children weight/chubbiness correctly. Akerman et al., 2007 observed that when parents estimated weight and had normal weighted children they roughly equally underestimated (43.1%) or overestimated (49.3%) the child’s weight (with 7.6% being accurate). But things changed with the kids were either underweight or overweight. For the underweight children 70% of these parents overestimated the children’s weight (16% accurate, and 14% underestimated). For the overweight children 61.6% underestimated, 7.9% were accurate and 30.5 overestimated.
In another study the researchers found that not only did parents underestimate children measured weight but so did the children and their physicians (Chaimovitz et al., 2008). The conclusion of this paper was:
Many children underestimated their degree of
overweight. Their parents and even their attending physicians
shared this misperception. This study demonstrates the need to
further educate physicians to recognize obesity and overweight
so that they can counsel children and their families.
I find this very interesting because how are you going to fix a problem if you can’t see it staring you in the face. Parents and apparently doctors need to take off the rose tinted glasses and face reality. I wonder if the doctors (and parents) version of ‘normal’ has changed over the years because the average weight of children have increased over these years. The overweight silhouette is the new average ?
This is not only an American phenomena, as a Canadian study found very similar results with 63% of the parents with overweight children judging them as in the normal weight category (He and Evans, 2007). The title of this study was interesting: ‘Are parents aware their children are overweight or obese? Do they care?’
If you have a child maybe you want to accurately measure your child’s height and weight - and compare it to what is normal for the appropriate age range (see here). Your inability to see the reality of your child’s weight could lead to your child’s reduced cognitive ability. For if you don’t recognize the problem you can not fix it. And we naturally want the best for our kids - but then we have to view the situation correctly. While you are at it you might want to check you own body mass index (BMI) and calculate your number. Are you wearing rose tinted glasses?
caveat: BMI is not the be all measurement of appropriate body size - and can be innacurate in terms of ‘fatness’ so you might want to look into getting a proper body fat measurement (there are several options, from cheap and ‘reasonably’ accurate, to more expensive and subsequently more accurate).