Obesity and Language, Part 8

The previous post referenced author Roxane Gay, who by medical definition is considered to be “super morbidly obese,” but who prefers to call herself “fat.” She is highly critical of both the medical community’s treatment of extremely large people, and what she perceives as a public health “hysteria” over the “obesity epidemic.”

Still, it causes questions about how it feels to be someone who is, in the eyes of medical practitioners, even more dangerously overweight. Does patient-first language actually make that much of a difference? Rather than “super-super morbidly obese person,” is “person with super-super morbid obesity” really more acceptable?

Gentle suggestions

For HuffingtonPost.com, Natasha Hinde discussed the difficulty of being a parent in the obesity-language dilemma. The key concepts are to introduce these discussions gradually and casually. Don’t make a big deal out of it. You want your kid to absorb and remember this as enlightenment, not torture. Hopefully, a child will feel that it is okay to talk about weight and to ask questions. The main goal is to boost their sense of self-esteem and well-being.

And it’s not as if you are introducing a new topic that has never been explored before. The writer says,

[C]hances are they’ll be hearing about weight from lots of other places anyway, whether that’s school, TV or online. So at least by having these conversations yourself, you can help them see that what they hear about weight is not always right.

Even when it’s right, it might make zero impression. You can tell them they might get diabetes or high blood pressure, but since when have children been attuned to worries about future illness? They don’t even care about what happens five minutes from now, when they have climbed to the roof and are about ready to jump off it.

Hinde recommends a suggestion list from experts at the British Dietetic Association and the University of Bath. They point out that if you criticize anyone’s weight, even your own, kids will assume that you are also condemning their extra pounds.

When you greet a relative or acquaintance, avoid weight-related comments, even those that seem positive, like “You’ve dropped a few pounds!” Even if you know it’s what the adult wants to hear, too bad — just leave the subject alone. You don’t want kids to get the message that weight matters so much, it’s the first and foremost thing on everybody’s (or anybody’s) mind.

(To be continued …)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Roxane Gay’s ‘Hunger’ a worthy, perhaps necessary, read for medical journalists,” HealthJournalism.org, 02/18/19
Source: “How To Talk To Kids About Body Weight (Without Making It A Big Deal),” HuffingtonPost.co.uk, 05/29/23
Image by Maxime De Ruyck/CC BY 2.0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FAQs and Media Requests: Click here…

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

Profiles: Kids Struggling with Obesity top bottom

The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources