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Globe On ‘The Dreaded Fat Chat’ With Kids


I brought my children in for back-to-back check-ups earlier this month, and our pediatrician said they had both strayed a bit from the curve on their growth charts. My daughter had gained a bit too little weight (Warning light in my head: anorexia!) and my son had gained a bit too much (Warning light in my head: obesity!)

I was left not only mildly worried about their weight, but more intensely worried that even those gentle cautions from the doctor might spawn eating complexes or compulsions in one direction or another.

So I read every word of today’s Beth Teitell story in the Globe on the dreaded “fat chat,” the difficult conversations parents have with children about weight. Every instinct tells me it’s a minefield, but of course, that could be mostly me projecting from my own complexes. In fact, my favorite part of Beth’s story is the no-nonsense, drill-sergeant expert:

Why pussy-foot around, asks John Mayer, a clinical psychologist in Chicago, and author of “Family Fit: Find Your Balance.’’ “Would you be ‘delicate’ to insist that your child needs to take chemotherapy for a suspected cancer??’’ he wrote in an e-mail. “NO, as a responsible parent you would say: ‘This is what you are doing to save your life.’ Why do we treat obesity and weight control differently when so many more kids suffer from this illness than they do cancer?? Let’s stop the rhetoric and take action as parents.’’

He also disputes the idea that being honest about a child’s weight problem might lead to body-image issues. “Am I going to give you a complex, or are you going to have confidence that good nutrition and healthy eating are a good parenting decision? Parents should stop being so delicate and insist on what’s right and what’s wrong.’’

Beth’s distillation of most experts’ advice is a bit less daunting:

Work to create a healthy lifestyle for the entire family and don’t focus on the heavier child and calories; don’t label foods as “bad,’’ as that can make them more appealing or lead to eating issues later in life; don’t privately or publicly shame a child by yelling at him to stop eating cake at a party; build exercise into the family’s routine.

Daily Rounds: Caritas Sale Close; Health Care Industry Cozy With GOP; Parents Key In Anorexia Recovery; Death On The Weekend; Sex In America

Deal near on terms for Caritas sale to Cerberus – The Boston Globe “With state regulators preparing to rule soon on the proposed sale to Cerberus Capital Management, the parties have been locked in frantic negotiations in recent weeks. The talks intensified after Caritas discovered an additional $45 million shortfall in its unfunded pension liability and critics of the deal pressed for the New York firm to be held to stringent conditions.” (Boston Globe)

Health industry bolts Dems for GOP – Sarah Kliff – POLITICO.com “A new portrait of the health industry landscape has begun to take shape, with some of those major players [insurers, health professionals, drug makers] shifting their dollars [away] from the very Democrats who passed the law they seemingly endorsed at the White House.” (The Politico)

Parental Role Aids Anorexia Recovery – WSJ.com “In the strongest evidence to date to suggest families should be involved in treatment, a 121-patient study published Monday found that a therapy in which parents remain present at each meal until an anorexic child eats appears to be more effective in fostering recovery than when a child works solely with a therapist.” (Wall Street Journal)

Heath Care's Lost Weekend NYTimes.com — Former OMB Chief Peter Orszag writes: “One study in 2007 found, for example, that for every 1,000 patients suffering heart attacks who were admitted to a hospital on a weekend, there were 9 to 10 more deaths than in a comparable group of patients admitted on a weekday. The weekend patients were less likely to quickly receive the invasive procedures they needed — like coronary artery bypass grafts or cardiac catheterization.” (The New York Times)

Condom Use Is Highest Among Teenagers, Study Finds – NYTimes.com (The New York Times) “A vast majority of sexually active 14- to 17-year-olds — 80 percent of boys and 69 percent of girls — said they had used a condom the last time they had intercourse, compared with well under half of adults involved in casual liaisons.” Other findings include this: “While most men said they had experienced orgasm the last time they had sex, and 85 percent believed their partner had also, only two-thirds of the women surveyed said they had achieved orgasm the last time they had sex. And a startling number of women — almost one-third — said they had experienced pain the last time they had sex (only 5 percent of men did).”