What can I do to help my child, who is overweight?
You are not alone in having an overweight or obese child. Obesity among school-age children (6 to 11 years) has dramatically increased from 6.5 percent in 1976 to 17.7 percent in 2014. In adolescents (12 to 19 years), the prevalence has gone up from 5.0 in 1976 to 20.5 percent in 2014.
This increase is caused by a number of factors which generally include poor eating habits, lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyles due to watching TV and playing video games. Pediatricians also are finding childhood obesity at much younger ages, often in children under age 5.
This has dire implications for children’s’ health, not only in childhood but also as they grow into adults. A relatively low number of obese children have a problem with their endocrine glands, but it’s important to rule out thyroid disorder or a steroid hormone imbalance, which will need more specific treatment.
Being supportive of overweight children is important
With an obese child, it’s vitally important that the parents and other adults in the child’s life are supportive and accepting. Make sure he or she feels loved, special and important.
- Be firm about making healthy eating choices, such as fruits and vegetables.
- Buy fewer soft drinks and high-fat or high-calorie snack foods. They may be OK occasionally, but offer healthy choices more often.
- Encourage daily physical activity, at least for a half-hour each day, and preferably for a full hour.
- Set a good example by being active as a family.
- Avoid activities that embarrass your child.
- Discourage inactive pastimes by setting limits on screen-time activities such as watching TV, playing video games and being on the computer.
Consult your child’s doctor if these steps fail to reduce your child’s weight. Your doctor should have materials to help you or may refer you to other health care professionals who work with overweight children. In some cases, a weight-control program may be necessary.
If you’re concerned about your child’s weight, talk with your child’s doctor.