Letter to Parents: “Your Kid is Fat”

In Flagstaff, Arizona, public schools have taken an aggressive approach to reducing childhood obesity. “Beginning this fall the district will measure and weigh elementary-school children and send letters to parents whose children are overweight or heading that way.” (Source: Arizona Daily Star) The district estimates that about half of their elementary school students will fall into this category.

Recent research has found a potential link between an increase in children’s eating disorders and how adults communicate with children about obesity. Study author Dr. David Rosen says “that many of his young patients trace the beginnings of their disordered eating to being told by a physician to lose a few pounds.” Yet the letters to overweight children in Flagstaff will urge parents to visit a physician with their children to talk about nutrition and weight loss. So will these letters actually help the children?

An editorial in the Arizona Daily Star suggests the school-based child weighing and letter notification project should be extended throughout the state. Wouldn’t it be better to use the schools as forums for discussing healthier food and lifestyle choices so parents and children can learn together in the context of their own communities, rather than singling out and perhaps embarrassing and humiliating children and their parents? Some parents may not appreciate the style of communication and may reject information in the letters. It seems more sensitive and less offensive to hold town hall style meetings that include everyone rather than identifying offenders or problem children because of possible repercussions to those children from their peers, and the potential stress, which might actually induce more overeating.

An estimated 31 percent of Arizona’s children between 10 and 17 are obese. (Source: Arizona Daily Star) In March it was reported Pima County, Arizona had received a $16 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control for obesity reduction and prevention.á Reducing obesity in the county is a collaborative effort involving the University of Arizona, the Pima County Health Department and local organizations such as schools. (You can read about the obesity reduction activities on the Centers for Disease Control website.) Most of the measures appear to be about making physical activities easier, and sensible things like a public education campaign about nutrition and hiring wellness educators. Another practical measure will be using fresh vending machines, in place of those dispensing junk food. (Source: collegehealthyvending.com)

Image Credit: Walter Siegmund

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Amandine S.
Past Member 3 years ago

Thanks for the article.

LMj Sunshine

Interesting article, thank you.

LMj Sunshine

Interesting article, thank you.

Lin Moy
Lin M5 years ago

I don't think this will be helpfull. Instead it will be embarrassing to the child. Parents don't have to be told, they know. Educating parents might help. But so many foods are to expensive to many. You eat what fills you up, not what you need when money is tight like it is for so many now. Filling foods are mainly potatoes,mac and cheese etc something that make a little more and fills you up.

Kath R.
Kath P5 years ago

Jamie Oliver tried to show both parents and kids plus some schools (UK & US) how to eat right which would automatically lower their weight. Not everyone wanted to change their eating habits.
Manufacturers should be required to cut back on the excessive salt, sugar, fat and chemicals added to nearly all pre-made foods.

Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M5 years ago

More often than not, the parents themselves are overweight and support the child's unhealthy eating habits. Would the obese parents attend a town hall meeting on nutrition? Probably not. If worded properly, it might be a wake up call to parents concerned for their child's health and future. It should never be done in an attempt to single out or humiliate the child or family. I was asked by my daughter's classmate's mom if I thought her daughter was "fat". Trying to be diplomatic, as the child (and mother) was clearly overweight, I told her that if she was concerned about her child's weight and health, to eliminate all junk food and sugars from their daily diet, and encourage more fruits and vegetables. Get rid of the pop & chips. She seemed interested... did she do it? Time will tell.

Mandi A.
Amanda A5 years ago


Joe R.
Joe R5 years ago

I think the parents already know.

LAV M5 years ago

Child obesity is a big problem. I don't think it is good to shame children, but their peers already know who is overweight so I don't consider that to be a valid argument against trying to get the parents to act responsibly.

Sarah M.
Sarah M6 years ago

This is ridiculous & won't do any good at all.