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How Not to Talk to a Child Who Is Overweight

I weigh my words (pun intended) every time I address the topic of a child’s obesity in the exam room. Yes, I know, you probably want to tell me that I shouldn’t use that word — “obese” — and I promise that I don’t. But in the child’s electronic medical record, that’s the official coding if the child’s body mass index is at or above the 95th percentile for age and gender. And medical providers, just like parents, may find themselves walking a difficult line as they try to discuss this fraught subject without increasing the distress that many children are already feeling.

“Guilt and blame don’t motivate change, they just make people feel bad, and when people feel bad, they don’t tend to be motivated toward healthy behavior,” said Dr. Stephen J. Pont, an assistant professor at the University of Texas Dell Medical School.


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