Help Your Child Outgrow Weight Problems

By Orciari, Amy

Is your child overweight? Dieting alone may not be the answer. It’s often more beneficial to encourage healthy habits in your youngster—so weight problems don’t become a lifelong issue.

Why children’s weight matters

The negative effects of being overweight in childhood go beyond playground teasing. Overweight children have a higher risk for many health problems—during childhood and into adulthood, according to the CDC.

Children with weight problems often have conditions that may not develop until later in life, such as type 2 diabetes. They also may have a higher risk of developing cancer as an adult. And, heart disease is more common in adults who were heavy as children.

A child who is overweight also has a high risk of being an overweight adult. The risk rises with age. Only about 20 percent of 4-year-olds who are overweight will face obesity in adulthood. But, 80 percent of adolescents who are overweight are likely to have severe weight problems as adults, the CDC says.

Try these healthy changes

Do you think your child has a weight problem? First, check with your child’s doctor to be sure.

Most weight problems are caused by too little activity and too much food. Most children who are overweight don’t need to diet. They simply need to be encouraged to eat moderate portions of healthy foods and be more physically active. As they grow taller, their weight should stay the same or increase by only a normal amount.

Encourage your child to adopt small—but significant—habits that can last a lifetime:

  • Offer healthy choices that are naturally low in calories, such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat or fat-free yogurt.

  • Plan healthy meals and snacks for the family. Look at food labels and choose items low in fat and high in nutrition.

  • Set limits on TV and computer time. Encourage your children to do something active instead.

  • Plan family exercise outings. Go for a hike, ride bikes, or walk the dog.

  • Insist that all meals and snacks be eaten at the dining table.

  • Switch from whole to low-fat milk once children are 2 years old.

  • Don’t serve sugary beverages, such as carbonated sodas, which only provide empty calories.

  • Teach children how to order healthy food when dining out. One idea: Replace fries with a side salad.

Support your child

Children of every shape and size need love and acceptance from their parents. It’s especially important for children who are overweight to know that their parents’ affection doesn’t depend on their weight. Here are some ways to support your youngster:

  • Praise your child’s strengths, abilities, and character. Nurture his or her dreams. Tell your child that he or she is special and important. This teaches the child that worth isn’t all about appearance.

  • Value health regardless of body size. Get your child focused on overall well-being. Promote mental as well as physical health.

  • Teach your child that his or her body is a good body so that the child is inspired to take care of it. Showing respect for your child’s body sets a good example for him or her to follow.

  • Recognize the small changes your child makes to become healthier. These are the building blocks to greater success.

Medical Reviewer: [Hertz, Charles MD, Mukamal, Kenneth MD] Last Annual Review Date: 2007-12-09T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications