Our take: According to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, out of 350 teens who attended weight-loss camps, many reported that they have experienced bullying from trusted adults, including coaches, gym teachers (42 percent) and parents (37 percent).
Nancy Keefe Rhodes, a therapist and writer in Syracuse, N.Y., has struggled with weight all her life. So when the uncle she idolized asked her, at age 10, if she went to “Omar the tentmaker” for her clothes, she was devastated. “When I begged him to stop, he said he was just trying to help,” she said.
Parents and other adults who are “only trying to help” may do harm rather than good, as a recent study from the journal Pediatrics makes clear. More than 350 teens who had attended one of two weight-loss camps filled out detailed questionnaires about their experiences of being victimized because of their weight. It found, not surprisingly, that nearly all heavier teenagers are teased or bullied about their weight by peers. What was surprising was the number of teenagers who said they have experienced what amounts to bullying at the hands of trusted adults, including coaches and gym teachers (42 percent) and, most disturbingly, parents (37 percent).
“What we see most often from parents is teasing in the form of verbal comments,” says Rebecca M. Puhl, director of research at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and the study’s lead author. Such comments can range from nagging a child about eating too much to criticizing how she looks in a particular outfit to trying to bribe him into sticking with a diet.
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