A recent study in the medical news examined teens’ self-perception in terms of obesity and normal weight. It showed that teens viewed themselves as normal even though they had an increased BMI. Zhang et al. (Am J Prev Med 2015) studied two different time periods (1988-94 and 2007-2012) and found that only 21% of boys correctly perceived themselves as overweight in the recent survey as opposed to 28% of those in an earlier survey. For girls, 36% correctly perceived their weight status in the latest survey as opposed to 79% in the first. The reality is that obesity prevalence has more than doubled in teens during the past 20 years.
The concern of some health professionals is that teens will not try to modify their behavior and/or lose weight due to their self- perception of being normal weight. With 2/3 of the population being overweight or obese, this now appears to be the norm.
What can a parent do when their child is overweight/obese? First of all, it is important to model the appropriate behavior in the home such as healthful eating and increasing activity level. Healthy food and snacks should be easily accessible to the child. Family life should include plenty of walks and active recreational pursuits. Another area to examine is screen time- whether it be TV watching, on the computer, or video games. Perhaps some of this activity can be diverted into more active endeavors. If all this does not seem to make an impact, talk to your health professional for other ways to help your child grow into a healthy adult.