Obesity and Language, Part 9

The current topic has morphed from professionals talking with patients to parents talking with children. The previous post discussed some of the suggestions made by Natasha Hinde, Parents editor at HuffPost U.K., who had gathered ideas from professional sources. The ideas are simple, but might not be easy.

How is a grownup supposed to transmit to children the notion that eating a variety of foods containing essential vitamins and minerals is important? How is an adult expected to convey the concept that it is necessary to move the body around, put some stress on it, and make a few demands of it?

The sophisticated humor of the real estate market holds that only three factors matter — location, location, and location. Here is a new maxim: In the realm of parenting, only three things matter — example, example, and example. One of Hinde’s suggestions is,

Try and make sure your child sees you eating a range of foods and being active yourself.

At the same time, you’ll be setting an example not only for the kids but for other family members and friends, who may develop similar aspirations toward becoming exemplary mature role models. Keep in mind that an unadorned example is much more powerful than any attempt to beef up an example with authoritarianism.

Especially in the earliest years, children absorb and reflect what they see the adults doing, without giving it any thought. It is not even necessary to say, “You must eat vegetables because I do.” In fact, it is not advised, because when kids get to the age of thinking about stuff, a parent is likely to hear some version of, “Why do I have to do something just because you do it?” Or even, “Get lost, I don’t have to do anything just because you do it.” But the power of a silent, unspoken example is very difficult for even the most surly adolescent to wage war against.


The best advice is to frame everything positively. It’s good to eat vegetables — not because they keep the extra pounds away, but because you become strong and healthy. It’s good to take the dog for a walk — not because it will prevent you from getting fat, but because your body will perform every one of its functions better.

This idea might take some study, and could be a lot of fun:

Talk to your child about what they see online, on social media and TV — explain that lighting, make-up and photo-editing is used to make people look different from how they are in real life.

Then, there are several items of advice that should be universal. If we teach them that “everyone deserves respect, whatever their body size, shape or ability,” our children will have no reason to feel anxious that we might condemn them for their body size, shape, or ability. Some things are easy to suggest but hard to do, and one of them is keeping our lips zipped when a morbidly obese person shows up on the scene, whether in real life or in media. We don’t have to say, “What is she wearing, an army surplus tent?” We can exert self-control and continue to set a good example.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “How To Talk To Kids About Body Weight (Without Making It A Big Deal,” HuffingtonPost.co.uk, 05/29/23
Image by Cambodia4kids.org/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