Weight Survey Shows Parental Knowledge Gap

Many parents don't recognize that their children are overweight, new research says.

Junk food

Parents, step away from the junk food. Photo via Shutterstock

We reported last week on how few pet owners realize their companions are overweight. More shocking? That phenomenon holds true for parents and their children, too.

The Harvard School of Public Health, National Public Radio, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released yesterday the results of a 2012 survey asking parents if their children were overweight or in danger of growing up to be overweight. Only 15 percent of respondents classified their children as currently overweight, and a slightly higher 20 percent expressed concern that they would grow up to be overweight. The catch: Previous studies have determined that around one-third of kids in this country are overweight and 69 percent of adults are overweight, meaning there’s a disconnect between how parents see their children and the actuality of the situation.

An L.A. Times report quotes Gillian SteelFisher, a researcher from Harvard School of Public Health. “People often have a hard time making the connection between national problems and their own families,” she says in the report.

The survey—which focused on how behaviors between 3 p.m. and bedtime (“crunch time”) impact kids’ weights—did show, however, that parents and caregivers are cognizant of the need to be healthy and manage weight. All but 5 percent of respondents agreed that it’s important for children to exercise and eat well to keep weight down. So why are so many children overweight? The survey’s results say it could be yet another pitfall of our hyper-busy culture, since crunch time is often when parents are busiest, making it difficult to prepare healthful family meals and make sure kids are exercising. The L.A. Times report says:

But since “crunch time” tends to be a busy time, filled with extracurricular activities and homework and preparation for the next day at school, it isn’t always easy to make sure kids eat well and engage in health-promoting activities.

So parents, take note. This study shows that caregivers need to stop turning a blind eye to “pleasantly plump” kids or adolescents who still have “baby fat” and find the time to make health a priority. Awareness of the obesity epidemic is at an all-time high in this country, as demonstrated by the overwhelming majority of parents who answered that keeping weight down is important, so what we need now is action, not excuses.