“My daughter knows to turn the other way and not look when the pediatrician weighs her,” New York mother Rebecca reveals. Her 8-year-old daughter has always been on the bigger side, but according to her doctor, she’s now 10 to 15 pounds overweight, some of which Rebecca chalks up to the pandemic. “I asked the pediatrician to stop talking about numbers on the scale when she was about 5 years old because I was worried about what it would do to her,” she says, adding that she herself suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager.
According to experts, Rebecca’s concerns are valid. “Talking about a child’s weight in front of them can cause harm because a child may hear that their body is wrong,” says Anna Lutz, a registered dietician who specializes in eating disorders and pediatric/family nutrition in Raleigh, North Carolina. “This can lead to shame, low self-esteem, negative body image and a desire to restrict their food intake.”
The idea that weight talk has a negative impact on kids is not new. But new guidelines on childhood obesity from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) calling for more intensive treatment options earlier, including therapy and medication, have many parents and pediatric feeding specialists concerned.
One reason why is because the new guidelines contradict previous guidance.