When it comes to recognizing that their child should lose weight, some parents have the blinders on, according to findings published in the March 2006 issue of Pediatrics.

The study’s goal was to explore parents’ perceptions about their children’s appearance and health. Parents of kids aged 2–17 years were surveyed and asked to select (from seven choices) the sketch that matched their own child’s body image. Among parents of overweight or at-risk-for-overweight (AROW) children, 18% recalled a doctor’s concern or were worried about a child’s weight. If the overweight or AROW child was 6 years of age or older, parents were more likely to describe him or her using terms such as overweight or a little overweight. Parents of older children were also more likely to be worried if they perceived their kids as being less active or slower than other children. “Recognition of physical activity limitations and physicians’ concerns may heighten the parent’s level of concern,” the researchers concluded.

This is where fitness professionals can help: Talk to parents about their perceptions, and try to impress on them that regular physical activity during childhood reduces the likelihood that kids will become overweight or obese.