Why This Matters

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released new guidelines for treating childhood “obesity.”

At WithAll, we see these guidelines as failing kids for two simple reasons. First, the guidelines make only nominal mention of the ways in which aggressively treating a child with “overweight or obese weight status” (which the AAP is recommending in their new guidelines) can substantially increase a young person’s risk of developing disordered eating or an eating disorder. This is in spite of the fact that eating disorders are on the rise.

Many kids are highly likely to feel shame or self-doubt when they sense an adult is judging or criticizing their weight or food relationship. These are the kids that are more likely to develop disordered eating or eating disorders because of perceived adult judgment(s). Every pediatrician must approach weight or body conversations with this awareness, or they will cause irreparable harm. The AAP guidelines make absolutely no mention of this reality.

Second, the guidelines continue the failed effort of focusing on BMI, percentiles, or numbers—as a proxy for real health—with a false belief that doing so will reduce rates of unhealthy excess weight. How many billions of dollars and years will we continue down this path that does not work? Research has time and time again shown when we focus on weight and diet instead of health and well-being, we create harm not health.

At WithAll, we are working to raise awareness of what the AAP has done and failed to do with these guidelines. Our kids deserve and need better. WithAll’s full response can be found here.

Although the AAP’s approach is disheartening, we can take action to speak out. And we can advocate for our own children by talking to their doctor about avoiding a harmful focus on BMI, weight, and percentiles—asking them to instead focus conversations on health behaviors that our children can learn to choose for lifelong wellbeing and health.

Download our What to Say Guide for Health Care Professionals to give to your child’s doctor asking them to not discuss weight in front of your child at well checks.


For more everyday tips on promoting positive food-body relationships with the children in your life, you can also visit these additional resources from WithAll’s What to Say Initiative.

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This guide unpacks simple principles that can be applied in food & body conversations with kids to support a foundation of lifelong health and well-being.

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This guide gives tips for asking family, coaches, teachers and health care providers to shift how they talk about diet and weight with kids.

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Social media can have a profound impact on a kid’s self-image and relationship with food. Get information to help them use it in healthy ways.

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