Is obese the new normal for kids?
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the skinniest kid of all? Me, of course!
It’s well known that grown-ups are given to self-delusion when it comes to their appearance. I look in the mirror, and I still see George Clooney grinning mischievously back at me.
But a study has found that children also have a skewed self-image, particularly when it comes to weight. According to the latest data from the Growing Up in Ireland longitudinal study on child development, about 20 per cent of children aged 13 are overweight and 6 per cent are obese, but not all of them see it that way.
Around 20 per cent of those overweight children think they’re the perfect size, or perhaps even a little too thin. It’s like they have a fairground mirror at home that squeezes their plus-size reflection into supermodel size-zero dimensions.
The State-funded study has been looking the development of children from the age of nine, and found “a certain level of misrepresentation” around weight. The study, conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), found that 21 per cent of children categorised as overweight or obese reckoned they were “just the right size” or “a bit skinny”.
So, is obese the new normal for kids? Well, when you’re in a classroom full of skinny kids, you might feel more aware of that puppy fat. But if all your friends are overweight, you might be thinking, “there’s not a pick on me – better eat some more doughnuts.”
This latest report is based on more than 7,400 interviews conducted in 2012 when the subjects were 13, and it found that girls were more likely to have weight issues than boys. It also found that weight issues were more prevalent among children from disadvantaged areas: around 32 per cent of 13-year-olds with weight issues were from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. And, say the researchers, once these weight issues are established at that age, they are harder to shift, meaning that mirror will be telling lies for many years to come.