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Study: Weight issue hardest for parents to address

Guess what is the hardest thing to talk with their kids about? It's not drugs, drinking or sex. It's weight.

A national "Raising Fit Kids" study reveals that being overweight is a more difficult topic for parents to talk to their teens about than the traditionally touchy subjects of drugs, alcohol, smoking and even sex. The study finds one quarter of parents avoid discussing their children's size with them.

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"The Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill noted one in of three American kids is now considered overweight or obese. "So, clearly," she remarked, "it's an important talk needs to be had."

So "The Early Show" turned to pediatrician and child obesity specialist Dr. Joanna Dolgoff, author of "Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right" and contributor and child adolescent psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, for more on the issue and how you talk to your child about the topic.

Dolgoff pointed out obesity is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. She said it's very important to broach the topic with your kids.

"This is a health issue, not a looks issue," she said.

Ideally, Dolgoff said, parents should be starting healthy eating habits from birth.

"The studies show that obese children, they die younger than children who are not obese," she said. "It's critical to talk about this."

Hartstein added, "The thing is that sex, drugs, those other topics, you can do that in a third-person conversation. But appearances are really personal, direct, where you're saying, 'Hey, this is something I'm worried about.' How do you present the information is so important because it can be taken so personally and really impact their self-esteem, which we know leads to so many other problems later."

So how do you approach this topic?

Hartstein suggested parents begin by getting the right information.

"Sixty-four percent of parents are also overweight, so they are not necessarily ready or have the right information," Hartstein said.

She continued, "You also want to lead by example. You can't say you can't have the McDonald's, but watch me eat the fries and the burger. You have to choose the right things. And, lastly, you want to focus on the positive. Your kid has a lot of wonderful things that are going on for them. Maybe they sing well, maybe a good artist, maybe they are smart and maybe working really hard. You want to focus on their effort and what they can do and what they are doing - not just on the results because we know that will help them."

But how do you know if your child is truly overweight and not just carrying baby fat?

Dolgoff said parents should know they can't tell a child is overweight by just looking at him or her. She said parents should discuss weight with your child's pediatrician and ask about your child's body mass index percentile.

She explained, "The best way to tell a child's weight status. Anything from the 85th to 95th percentile is considered overweight. (The) 95th to 99th percentile is obese. Above 99th is morbidly obese."

Dolgoff added parents should keep an eye on portion sizes.

"It's not only making sure they eat the right foods," she said. "You want to make sure they eat the right amounts of food. ... Have an open discussion with your child about the importance of healthy eating and model healthy behaviors."