When I read the Washington Post article about how often obese kids are unaware of their weight (“Fewer U.S. children think they’re overweight when they are,” July 19), my immediate reaction was one of concern, but not for the reasons outlined in the article.

As someone who weighed 200 pounds by age 16, I am very familiar with the realities of being an obese teen. Other kids teased me, I had trouble finding clothes that fit and gym class was torture. Everything served to remind me of my size, and I became convinced that as long as I was overweight, I would never be acceptable.

Despite that, and despite my desire to lose weight, all my attempts to slim down in high school failed.

Which leads me to wonder just how worried we should be if kids are less focused on their weight. After all, how much good has such focus done in the past?

In so many cases, having that emphasis causes enormous emotional and psychological distress, as well as the potential of serious and life-threatening eating disorders.

On the flip side, what evidence do we have of actual physical harm because of these kids’ lack of perception? As groups like Health at Every Size (www.HAEScommunity.org) show, low weight and good health do not automatically go hand in hand, nor do high weight and poor health. What, then, is the true risk?

The article does recognize the need for a delicate balance here. My concern is that in the desire to press forward with the anti-obesity agenda, we will sacrifice other types of well being so vital to our young people.

After all, the first line of the article reads, “The kids are not all right.” That’s the message I took home, and it did not make me a healthier or a happier teen.

Erica Bartlett

Portland