Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Should obesity be a factor in determining fitness as a parent?


I was listening to The Current on the CBC yesterday morning. They were discussing the case of a Ottawa man who may lose custody of his children, in part, because he is obese. For more about his case click here. This man was 520 lbs but is now down to 380 lbs. Clearly there are other issues in this particular case; substance abuse, and anger management issues were mentioned on the radio. Let’s pretend that these other issues weren’t present. Should a judge consider a parent’s weight when determining their ability to be a good parent? I think this is a dangerous direction to be taking. If we considered obesity as we would any other health condition (for example, cancer, lupus, multiple sclerosis, paralysis) would we be having this debate? I’m sure there are people out there who would say “Yes, if a parent has cancer and is somewhat incapacitated due to chemotherapy take away their children!” but I’m also pretty sure that more people would be appalled at the thought. Why is obesity any different? It’s because it’s their own fault that they’re obese. Right? Wrong. Obesity is a complex issue and we need to stop being so judgemental. There are plenty of terrible parents out there who are not morbidly obese and obesity alone does not make you an unfit parent.

Where do you draw the line when you start considering obesity as a factor in child custody cases? Is it when mobility is affected? Or maybe it’s a certain BMI? It’s a slippery slope. As long as the parent can provide for their children then I think that their weight should hold no weight in court.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people see food and nutrition from a different perspective and understand that nutrition and health are not necessarily a result of personal choice.

4 thoughts on “Should obesity be a factor in determining fitness as a parent?

  1. A friend of mine who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to taking care of kids, even though he’ll tell you he doesn’t opined the following about this case.

    “To wit:

    – the children are special needs children who don’t respond to vocal admonishment
    – the father was hobbling around on crutches very recently and despite his weight loss has very poor physical fitness (ie couldn’t walk up flights of stairs unaided)
    – the father was fighting for full-time sole custody, not just visitation

    Put it all together, and I don’t think it is in the children’s best interest to be placed full time with this father. I think the father needs visitation access, absolutely, but today, no custody.”

    He makes the point perfectly, this father due to a number of factors should not have sole custody of his two children. Obesity or more accurately physical capacity is one of those factors.

    I think that headlines such as, “Obese Ottawa dad loses custody of kids” are more sensationalism than fact. I would love to see more policy aimed at the food supply chain regarding GMOs, food colouring, dangers of sugers and “whites” in general which are all in some way related to obesity among other diet related ailments but I don’t think obesity itself should necessarily be used to determine if an individual is a fit parent.


    • Thanks for commenting Don. I agree with much of what you’re saying. The Ottawa case was a catalyst for my post but I definitely think there were a number of issues at play there, not just the father’s obesity, and I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on that specific case.


  2. In the news article I read, it says substance abuse and anger management were both things he’s gotten treatment for and they are no longer an issue. If there are other reasons he shouldn’t have custody, then those should be the reasons, not his weight. Also the quote about him ‘hobbling around’ in the article came from a doctor who seemed kind of bitter that the man chose to lose at on his own (through lifestyle changes) rather than follow the doctors recommendations and getting surgery…maybe that was just my impression though.


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