Health Scan: How to talk to children about being overweight

A new Hebrew-language children's book has just been published as part of the Refuah Ketana series aimed at explaining metabolism, nutrients and weight loss to kids aged seven to 11.

nutrition pyramid 88 (photo credit: )
nutrition pyramid 88
(photo credit: )
Talking with children about being overweight is a sensitive matter, and doctors, dietitians, educators, parents and school nurses have to be careful not to trigger eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia among kids who think they are hopelessly fat. A new Hebrew-language children's book has just been published by Yesod ( as part of the Refuah Ketana series aimed at explaining metabolism, nutrients and weight loss to kids aged seven to 11. Called Le'Tal Lo Kal (It's Not Easy for Tal), the 36-page, NIS 56 hard-cover volume was written with advice from a clinical dietitian and edited by a children's book author while supervised by a geneticist and internal medicine specialist. The protagonist is an overweight nine-year-old named Tal. His grandmother gives him a diary for a birthday present (even though he thought diaries are strictly for girls), and the 39-kilo fourth grader comes to regard the diary as a secret companion. Ridiculed at school and rejected when trying to take part in sports, Tal learns about the health risks of obesity, the difference between healthful nutrition and junk food, and how to avoid snacking while watching TV. While getting counseling, he also goes to a basketball club to exercise. Gradually, he finds his trousers are too big for him; he has lost five kilos. He is overjoyed to confide in his diary that he will go to summer camp and for the first time swim without a shirt on to hide his fat. The terms body-mass index, hypertension, calories, vitamins, minerals, metabolism and others are explained. APRON STRINGS BENEFICIAL Counterintuitively, University of Haifa researchers have found that close families raise more independent adults when the children reach their 20s than if the relationships are distant. Dr. Irit Yanir evaluated how a parent-child relationship is connected to one's ability to fulfill society's expectations in terms of settling down and establishing an intimate relationship. She conducted in-depth interviews with psychologists, parents and young adults between the ages of 23 and 27, and 100 families (father, mother and child) completed 300 surveys as part of the study. According to Yanir, a close relationship with parents is one in which children talk with their parents often, and regularly spend time together (such as during family meals) and one in which a child feels comfortable sharing his thoughts and experiences with his parents. The researcher differentiates between connectedness and relationship-orientation, which refers to a young person's need to satisfy his parents and fulfill their expectations. A connected offspring may share with his parents and solicit their advice, and still make independent choices and decisions. "An independent young adult is one who exhibits independence not only in his day-to-day life but also in the emotional sphere, and who makes his way in life with emotional and intellectual autonomy," she explained. While a close relationship is often viewed as a sign of dependence, the research shows that those with close relationships with their parents were more financially self-sufficient, more independent in their day-to-day lives, more professionally stable, felt more mature and were more likely to be involved in a long-term intimate relationship. Those who maintained distant relationship with their parents and tended to make choices out of a need to rebel against their expectations were less independent into their late 20s. "The research found that following adolescence, the familial connection is an important factor in forming one's identity and living an independent life. It seems that not only can independence and closeness exist together, but they actually flourish together," summarized Dr. Yanir.