Background: Parents’ and grandparents’ willingness to talk about children’s body weights may be influenced by their own childhood experiences of body weight awareness and ‘weight talk’ in the family; however, little is known about how adults describe their recollected weight-related childhood experiences.
Aims: This paper examines how parents and grandparents of preschoolers describe the emergence of their own body weight awareness in childhood or adolescence. The analysis highlights the sources that participants identify as having instigated their body weight awareness, the feelings and experiences participants associate with the experience of becoming aware of their body weights, and their framings of potential links between childhood experiences and attitudes and practices in adulthood.
Methods: 49 participants (22 parents, 27 grandparents, 70% women, 60% with overweight/obesity) from sixteen low income families of children aged 3–5 years (50% girls, 56% with overweight/obesity) in the Pacific Northwest were interviewed. The interviews were videotaped, transcribed, and analyzed qualitatively.
Results: Twenty-five participants (51%) said they became aware of their body weights in childhood or adolescence. Fourteen participants said their body weight awareness emerged through comments made by others, with the majority citing parents or peers. No participant described the emergence of body weight awareness in positive terms. Four participants directly linked their own negative experiences to the decision not to discuss body weight with their preschoolers. All four cited critical comments from their parents as instigating their own body weight awareness in childhood.
Conclusions: In most cases, participants associated their emergent awareness of body weight with overtly negative feelings or consequences; some participants said these negative experiences continued to affect them as adults. Since family-based childhood obesity interventions involve open discussion of children’s body sizes, the results suggest that clinicians should reframe the discussion to deconstruct obesity stigma and emphasize inclusive, affirmative, and health-focused messages.
2014. Vol. 9, no 11, e111974- p.