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Your Opinion: Don't single out heavy children for weight intervention

Your Opinion: Don't single out heavy children for weight intervention

March 6th, 2018 by Nancy Ellis-Ordway, Jefferson City in Opinion

Dear Editor:

As a psychotherapist with more than 30 years in the field of eating disorder treatment, I have some concerns about the program described in the article "Class helps families make healthier choices" on Feb. 26. Even though it says that they avoid using the word "weight," it is clearly focused on weight loss. A considerable body of research literature supports the idea that focusing on weight loss with young people increases the risk for both eating disorders and weight gain later. Focusing on weight loss does not teach children to be thinner, it teaches them to be unhappy with their bodies, which is associated with poorer choices about health behavior. Instead, promoting positive body image, regardless of size, while encouraging family meals and pleasurable physical activity for everyone improves outcomes.

All children deserve to have access to healthy, delicious food and enjoyable exercise. Singling out heavier children for intervention promotes weight stigma, which has been identified as a public health concern in and of itself. Implying that a child's body is unacceptable can have lifelong consequences for that child. Dichotomizing foods into "good/bad" or "healthy/unhealthy" is more likely to lead to increased anxiety about eating rather than to better nutrition.

References for this information and other recommended reading can be found on my website: under "resources."