The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Obesity Society are teaming up to put out a very pointed message this morning about childhood obesity: weight shaming does not help (or even encourage) children to lose weight. In fact, say these experts, weight stigma makes obesity worse, not better.
An official policy statement by the America Academy of Pediatrics on the matter was published today at the website for the journal Pediatrics. In it, obesity experts suggest to pediatricians and other healthcare professionals that they work to reduce obesity discrimination and stigmatization–and educate others to do the same.
Researchers say weight stigma in childhood most often manifests as bullying or teasing. In schools, weight shaming is the most frequently suffered type of peer harassment. More than 70% of kids who seek weight loss help cite weight bullying at school, with a full 30% reporting that the bullying has been happening for years.
Unfortunately, weight shaming doesn’t just happen at school. Parents, too, can add to the stigma an overweight child experiences. But doctors, says Rebecca Puhl, of The Obesity Society, “. . . may be among the few allies who can offer support and help prevent youth from further harm from these experiences.”
Doctors can do that by changing the words they use with their obese patients. Using “people first” phrases like “children with obesity”, telegraphs a more empowering, empathetic attitude than, say, a phrase like “obese children”.
Photos by Nick Karvounis, Camille Minouflet on Unsplash