Diagnoses of Type 2 diabetes in children are on the rise as the nation’s youth obesity problem continues to grow. There’s just one problem: most obese kids don’t actually know they’re obese. It’s hard to deal with an issue you don’t know exists.
According to NPR’s account of a report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, 30% of kids and teenagers between 8 and 15 “misperceive” their weight–meaning they have a skewed idea of whether they are underweight, normal weight, or overweight. Just 23% of overweight kids and teens (as labeled by the CDC’s growth charts) who participated in the study thought they were overweight, and only 57% of obese respondents, including both kids and adults, realized they were overweight at all.
Kids who were normal or underweight, however, were more likely to have a better handle on their status. Just 4% of normal weight kids thought they were overweight, and under 9% thought they were underweight. Among the underweight, 49% of kids thought they were normal weight, and the others thought they were too skinny.
This is a tough issue to broach with kids–too much of a focus on weight can lead to a fixation on the subject, which in turn can trigger eating disorders. Instead of focusing on weight loss, parents and educators need to instead highlight the other benefits of a balanced diet and exercise. And on a systemic level, the U.S. needs to work on eradicating its many food deserts–places where it’s hard to access nutritious and affordable food. It’s not a coincidence that food deserts are often located in low-income areas, which have some of the highest rates of obesity.