Heavy news

One third of American children are obese or overweight, but doctors tell them only that they’re “at risk” of being overweight for fear of hurting their feelings. Now there’s a debate about telling kids the truth.

Obese “sounds mean. It doesn’t sound good,” said Trisha Leu, 17, who thinks the proposed change is a bad idea.

The Wheeling, Ill., teen has lost 60 pounds since March as part of an adolescent obesity surgery study at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“When you’re young, you don’t understand what obese means,” Leu said. “I still don’t understand it.”

It means “fat.” And it’s not good.

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  1. Foobarista says:

    Let ’em play dodgeball at recess, or we’ll sue the school administrators for creating an unhealthy school environment. That’ll doubtless make their heads explode…

  2. BadaBing says:

    I loved rainy days in high school because that meant we were going to play “murder ball” in the gym. Of course, that was in the old America, and now that we’ve transitioned to the new America, PE has become a joke. I’ve subbed over there enough to know that nothing in the way of physical exercise goes on, so why not scrap it and save the taxpayers some money? It’s an easy sub, though. All you do is take roll and have the kids sit in the bleachers. They don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to. And they don’t want to.

  3. God forbid that any American child should have to risk damage to their fragile self-esteem by having to deal with actual reality!

  4. Skeptical reader says:

    The debate shouldn’t be about whether or not kids’ feelings are hurt, but whether telling kids they’re fat does more harm that good and it’s not clear that telling kids individually that they are fat will help more than hurt. If it leads to attempts to lose weight (as opposed to preventing further weight gain), it could very well prove harmful see here.

    On the other hand, at the population level, encouraging more physical activity, better nutrition, and (strangely enough) getting enough sleep, could slow or halt the increase in obesity among schoolkids in general, and improve average health for that population. Prevention, really.

    If it turns out that telling kids they’re fat produces better obesity outcomes without increasing negative outcomes as well, then great. But right now we don’t know that’s what will happen.

  5. PE is vital and can work – especially outside the class framework as a requirement for sports and activity. That is also a path to building a long term goal-an active life.

    It also resolves the faultline between HS teams and club sports into a healthy partnership.

  6. Richard Nieporent says:

    When I read some of these comments I wonder if I fell into the rabbit hole. I cannot believe that people are actually debating whether or not we should tell children they are fat. Are children nowadays incapable of looking in a mirror and seeing that they are overweight? Or maybe, like Eric Cartman, they believe that “I’m not fat, I’m big boned!” However, even if they are capable of fooling themselves, I can assure you that their friends will have no problem letting them know that they are fat.

  7. Isn’t any health problem a child may have a matter for the parents to deal with and not the child?

    And yes, physical education in the schools has become a joke – especially with coed PE and with the impact of lawyers on school operations. Children, especially boys, need intervals of vigorous physical activity during the school day.

  8. Indigo Warrior says:

    It is really sad to see parents denying obesity in their children. Most likely, these sort of parents themselves were overweight, and were forced to attend school in the second half of the 20th century where sports and physical fitness were prized (much more than academics, and infinitely more than emotional contentment. School was hell for them, with nearly everyone treating them as the vilest of villains simply for being overweight. Hence that backlash.

    The only real long term solution is to take both PE and sports out of (public) schools completely, with the possible exception of certain special athletics-based schools. And make it the responsibility of parents to ensure the well-being of children.

    There are many other institutions that can sponsor youth sports – corporations, community leagues and the like, as are done in Europe and Japan. In doing that, they separate sports from education in the same way as church needs to be separated from state.

    And don’t forget, physical activity doesn’t have to mean competitive sports. Some people simnply aren’t wired for sports, of have other ways of expressing excellence. Even simple things like walking, running, swimming, bicycling, roller-skating are helpful.

  9. You don’t have to tell them anything. Just slip this Victor Buono CD into their little lunch pails.