Call Fat Kids Fat, Docs Say

A group of medical experts recommends calling obese kids “obese” even if it hurts their feelings.

Fat Albert Cartoon Doctors ought to quit using fuzzy terms to define children’s weight problems and instead refer to truly fat kids as overweight or obese, a committee of medical experts recommended. Less blunt terms used by the government and many doctors diplomatically avoid the term “obese.” Instead, they refer to children many would consider too fat as being “at risk for overweight,” and “overweight” for those others would consider obese. Those categories don’t adequately define the hefty problem, according to the group, which was convened by the American Medical Association and funded by federal health officials including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This would be a return to the practice common when I was growing up. Indeed, we often assisted the medical community by making up rhyming nicknames for the fat kids. I haven’t seen any empirical studies as to how that turned out but, anecdotally, I’d say the kids nowadays are fatter.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. TJIT says:

    I look forward to the next health scare courtesy of the nanny state.

    That will be an epidemic of anorexia caused by all of the kids responding to being called fat.

    Give it a few years it will probably happen.

  2. C.Wagener says:

    There really are an extraordinary number of fat kids nowadays, often raised by thin parents.

    I’m sure all parents out there have witnessed not just the after game snack, but the half time fruit snack. No kid could possibly survive an hour without caloric intake. Then there are kids routinely drinking “diet” products, helping to train their brain that sweet and calories aren’t linked. And electronics … and of course Bush/Cheney/Haliburton.

  3. just me says:

    I agree with you that there are more fat kids today.

    When I was in grade school, there were about 50 kids in my grade, one was definitely fat, the other was kind of fatish, but not truly fat. Those were the only two, until middle school, when we maybe had 4 out of 60 kids.

    I work in a second grade classroom-in our classroom of 20 there are three fat kids and a couple of more that while not really fat, are on the pudgy side. Out of a grade of 120, I would be willing to bet about 20 of them are fat, and another 15-20 would be well above average and on the pudgy side.

    I think it is an epidemic-I think a few things contribute-kids spend a lot more time playing video games and watching TV than I did as a kid, and I think parents are a lot less likely to let kids have as much freedom as I did as a kid. When I was 12 my best friend and I would ride our bikes about 4 miles to the swimming pool every day during the summer, spend the day swimming and ride the 4 miles home. I don’t know that I would allow my 12 year old to do that (although she is very active in other ways).

    I also think we try a bit too hard to coddle kids and protect their self esteems-and while I wouldn’t advocate kids picking on the fat kid (something else that is really a thing of the past in grade school-almost nobody gets bullied for their weight), I think doctors and other involved professionals should call a spade a spade when discussing concerns with parents.

  4. mark says:

    It’s pretty stupid to assert that children were thinner overall in your generation because of the names they were called. There, you see? I didn’t coddle you by saying your entry was “perhaps not considering all the evidence.” I just went and called you dumb. How advanced we are, huh?

  5. ness says:

    errr…mark….you actually called him “stupid”…not dumb… That’s so..ummm…unfortunate. 😉

  6. Cambel says:

    Parents, feed your children anything you want to, let them sit around the house and play video games, keep buying them larger and larger clothing.

    But don’t get upset when the doctor tells you they are obese. It isn’t the doctor’s fault that you are a lazy parent unwilling to do your job.