Parents of 'Big Boys' Could Be Ignoring a Dangerous Health Problem

Parents think their children are perfect and beautiful—because they are—but our blindness to at least one aspect of their physical appearance could be hurting their health. Experts say one-third of parents underestimate their child's weight and that this is even more prevalent in parents of boys.


A new study reveals 31 percent of parents surveyed underestimated their child's body mass index on an obesity scale, while the parents of just four children out of 369 who are identified as being "very overweight" recognized that fact.

It's possible we've become so sensitive to body shaming that we fear raising our children in a way that makes them feel bad about their weight. We can't fault these parents completely, and I don't feel these findings are all that shocking.

What I do find interesting: the majority of parents who underestimated their child's weight were of African or South Asian descent, from poverty-stricken backgrounds, or had little boys.

It didn't take long for me to think, well, of course they have boys.

Chubby boys don't have it easy—I am not suggesting they aren't victims of bullying and discrimination. But there are places for them in our society that aren't always open to "big girls." And, because of this, we sometimes tend to diminish their extra weight and figure it'll just melt off once that growth spurt hits.

In the meantime, "big boys" can be valuable members of their school's football team. If they have a sense of humor, they can follow in Chris Farley's footsteps and be the "ideal" class clown. "Cute big boys" can learn to cook and be adorable and quirky like Mario Batali.

Most importantly, "big boys" can be "strong boys" who aren't messed with because that skinny little bully in class assumes he'll be able to physically overpower him.

More from The Stir: There's Nothing 'Cute' About Photo of 10-Month-Old With Extreme Baby Fat

Big girls aren't given the same leeway when it comes to their appearances. From the time she is a toddler, a girl's worth is determined by her beauty. If we think our daughters aren't aware of which little girl in their class gets the most attention for her dimples or strawberry-blonde hair, we're mistaken.

A girl's formidable size and strength does her little good. After a certain age, her chubby cheeks and belly aren't called "cute." And, while we may excuse our son's desire to eat a second hamburger because he is, after all, a "growing boy," we rarely let our little girls off the hook when they want more food than we've deemed necessary.

I don't think we should be as blind to our daughter's weight as we are to our son's size, but we should work harder at thinking in terms of health for our children and in being aware of the bias we might have when it comes to a boy's weight and eating habits.

Bottom line: both boys and girls benefit more from apples than potato chips and all children feel better when they are a healthy weight.

Why do you think a lot of parents underestimate their son's weight?


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