between those numbers, since this was only an exploratory study, Tomiyama said.
She was not at all surprised that over half of girls had been labeled “fat.”
“The pressure to be thin in our society is intense, and other research shows that people label both themselves and others as 'overweight' even if their objective body mass index is in the 'normal weight' range,” she said.
Females are exposed to weight stigma more often, but the connection may be present for boys as well, she noted.
There are ways for parents to address weight and health issues with their children that don’t involve labeling, Tomiyama said.
“There's no need to say the ‘f’ word at all if you want to improve your child's health,” she said.
Parents could instead focus on the health of the family as a whole, said Angelina Sutin, who was not involved in the new study.
Sutin studies psychological wellbeing and health disparities at Florida State University College Of Medicine in Tallahassee.
“The best approach would be to start kids early on a path toward healthy living by eating healthy food and being physically active,” Sutin told Reuters Health in an email.
“This applies equally to parents as it does to kids – children model their parents’ behavior, so if kids see their parents making healthy choices, they are more likely to also make healthy choices,” she said.
Parents could identify activities the child enjoys and work on ways to do more of them, she added.
“I think the focus of the conversation needs to change,” Tomiyama said. “Right now, we have a laser focus on weight instead of health, but many studies show that weight is a really imprecise indicator of actual health.”
“Parents can talk to their child about adopting healthy behaviors without once mentioning weight,” she said.