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Parents and children are on different fat planets

9 October 2002

When it comes to fat,

parents and children are on different planets

Children and parents think about weight problems totally differently - which could explain why it’s extremely difficult to make any progress on obesity.

According to new research conducted in the USA, children:

- want parental guidance, encouragement and emotional support;

- want small victories to sustain interest and build self-esteem;

- link being healthy with having more friends, more fun, looking better, not being teased or picked on, and not wanting to be someone else; and

- associate being healthy with rules - they think of mandatory fruit and vegetables and missing out on favourite foods.

But parents felt:

- they would hurt their child’s feelings if they discussed their weight;

- they were ill informed about how to live a healthy life and weren’t good role models;

- being overweight or obese are not serious issues - but sex and drugs are;

- fearful of causing unhealthy eating habits; and

- they lacked the information and skills to address the issue.

Sylvia Rowe, president of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington D.C. will present the research findings to New Zealand health professionals at a seminar to be held in Wellington on October 9, 2002. She will also discuss how the information is being been used to successfully tackle the problem of obesity.

“A broad base of US organisations, from the recreation, food, and health professional perspectives, have come together to conduct this research,” Ms Rowe says.

“What these findings reveal is that there is a serious lack of communication and understanding between parents and their children on the issues of obesity and healthy lifestyles.”

“We also found the Internet was not only the place kids get their information but could be an effective way to facilitate conversation among families.”

continued. . . .

“The Kidnetic website ( was developed with this in mind. It’s one of the initiatives aimed at closing this communication gap. It’s a fun interactive way for kids and parents to get together and address the obesity issue in a non-threatening environment,” she says.

A range of other programmes, developed and implemented based on the research, will also be discussed at the seminars. is the centrepiece of an initiative called ACTIVATE, a partnership programme of the IFIC Foundation and five professional organisations.

“Opinion leaders, health professionals, the public and governments need to look at long-term solutions to the problem of overweight and obesity. Otherwise, public pressure will just lead to unsuccessful “quick fixes” which help no-one,” she says.

The Obesity Epidemic: The US Experience seminar is an initiative of the Confectionery Manufacturers of Australasia Ltd.


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