Skip to content Skip to footer

Dr Max Pemberton: Having an obese kid is child abuse

The NHS doctor and psychiatrist on why an overweight child is a victim of neglect as much as an underweight one, why it’s a biggest issue run areas of high poverty, and how urgent action is needed to defuse a generation-defining time bomb
Dr Max Pemberton
Dr Max Pemberton

Dr Max Pemberton is medical doctor, journalist and author. He works full-time as a psychiatrist in the National Health Service, specialising in eating disorders and addiction. He has written multiple best-selling books, including Trust me, I’m A (Junior) Doctor; Where Does it Hurt?; and The Marvellous Adventure of Being Human. He lives in London, England. Follow him on X. Visit maxpemberton.com.

We have to do more to protect our children

Children who are obese are as much a victim of neglect and child abuse as underweight and underfed children.

That’s the shocking view of Dr Max Pemberton, a medical doctor and psychiatrist who spent more than a decade running National Health Service clinics treating patients with severe eating disorders and addictions.

While many people would have no argument that an underweight child is suffering from neglect and child abuse – surely the fundamental first rule of parenthood is to provide shelter, safety and sustenance to your child – the claim that an obese child is suffering from an equivalent level of abuse is far too outrageous a statement for many to stomach – especially today when childhood obesity is such a white-hot issue and divisive subject, and the body positivity movement, including Health At Every Size, is at its most vocal, prominent and powerful.

But even in our “cancel culture” age, for Dr Pemberton soaring rates of childhood obesity in the UK – 9.2% of British children aged 4 and 5, and 22.7% of children aged 10 and 11, are obese, according to the UK’s National Child Measurement Programme in data published by NHS Digital, which also found far higher rates of childhood obesity is socially- and economically-deprived parts of the country – makes this too important an issue to remain quiet, whatever the professional and personal cost.

As he reveals in our exclusive interview action must be taken immediately, starting with schools themselves, to begin to address this spirally childhood obesity problem and the subsequent generation-defining physical and mental health crisis time bomb. Because further inaction is a fundamental failure to safeguard both the short- and long-term health, happiness and opportunity of our most precious, important and cherished asset – our children.

Leave a comment

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

Be the first to know the latest updates

[yikes-mailchimp form="1"]