Body shaming overweight children will not serve to motivate them to lose the extra pounds and may actually be doing more harm than good,the Obesity Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics declared.

People body shaming, or lightly teasing big bodied kids in the guise of motivating them to lose weight is said to be a misguided approach to convert them to health buffs. In fact, the opposite happens.

"We see a growing problem regarding weight stigma," said Dr Stephen Pont, lead author of the policy statement and a founding chair of the APP Section of the Obesity Executive Committee. "In a misguided attempt to get kids to change, people end up reinforcing negative coping behaviours," he rued.

Instead of embarrassing kids about their weight, parents and health professionals ought to take the opportunity to make people aware of weight stigma.

Teasing an overweight child could, instead of its intended purpose, result to social isolation, binge eating, more periods of inactivity and avoidance of routine medical checkups.

In terms of quality of life, kids who are teased reported experiencing bullying and harassment in school.

“While there has been substantial attention to medical treatment and intervention for obesity in youth, the social and emotional impact of body weight - like stigma and bullying - often get neglected,” said Dr Rebecca Puhl, an Obesity Society fellow and the deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, University of Connecticut.

The authors of the policy statement urged parents and health professionals to focus on positivity such as ways on how the kids can practice healthier behaviour. Family should be involved in adopting healthier practices altogether to avoid singling out a kid, suggests study author Dr Pont.

It would also be helpful of for parents and professionals to use neutral words such as “weight” than the term “obese.”

Further, Dr Eliana Perrin, co-author of the statement and the director of Center for Childhood Obesity Research at Duke University noted that movies - that feature “stigmatization” of overweight children - can actually be an opener for open and body-positive conversation. MIMS

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