Fat-shaming fears as study weighing children causing them ‘anxiety’

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The researchers assessed feedback given by parents whose children had been judged to be overweight by the NCMP.

Their analysis showed these families were concerned about the potential for harmful effects on their children’s mental health, with some saying it marked a turning point for their child’s awareness of bodyweight.

Children in the study, published in the Journal of Critical Health, reported feeling anxious and embarrassed about the weighing process while the potential for weight-related teasing also rose.

Parents also expressed concerns about the increased risk of their child developing an eating disorder. They said these behaviours were “far more dangerous than the weight itself”.

Queen Mary’s Dr Meredith Hawking told the MailOnline: “Many parents have legitimate concerns about the impact of the National Child Measurement Programme might have on children’s self-perception and food practices as they grow older.

“More research is needed to understand whether these concerns are borne out in the long term and to find ways to mitigate them if the programme is to continue.”

She added ministers must act on the data provided by the NCMP and use this to develop new ways to address childhood obesity.

The NCMP measures the weight and height of children when they begin primary school at the age of four or five, measuring them again at the age of 11.

Each child is then told whether they are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or very overweight.

Although the NCMP has received criticism, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, Tam Fry, said it was key that children’s weight was measured to flag up potential health issues.

Mr Fry said the NCMP was not intended to be a weight management programme. Instead it was a statistical exercise to provide information on a rising problem.

He said: “The national child measurement programme doesn’t go far enough. We should be measuring children annually in school for medical reasons, which was recommended in 2004 by the Commons Health Select Committee.

“Now, 18 years on, thousands of children and their parents are still suffering with no sign of child obesity rates getting any better. It’s a national disgrace.”

Mr Fry’s comments come as the UK tries to reduce its childhood obesity rate while trying to balance both future physical and mental health related problems.

If you have been affected by any of the topics mentioned in this article. You can call Childline on 0800 1111 or talk to a counsellor online.

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