At what point should I worry about my child’s weight?
First, talk to your family doctor about your child’s weight. It can be hard to tell whether you child actually has a weight problem. Your doctor can help.
Second, observe your child’s behavior and eating patterns. Being overweight or obese can be very stressful for children. The social effects, such as low self-esteem and isolation, may be more obvious than the physical health risks, such as increased risk for heart disease and diabetes later in life. But both can be very damaging to a child’s overall well-being.
Could my child’s weight problem be caused by other physical factors, such as genetics, diseases or hormone imbalances, or by a medicine he or she is taking?
Genetics can play a role in overweight and obesity. Children who have a family history of weight problems are at greater risk of having weight problems. Often, genetics work in combination with environmental and behavioral factors. That means that healthy eating and exercise habits are just as important as family history.
Generally, diseases and hormone imbalances can cause a wide variety of symptoms in addition to weight gain. Be sure to tell your family doctor if you have noticed any other unusual changes in your child, such as fatigue, constipation or dry skin. This information will help your doctor better evaluate your child’s weight gain.
The doctor will want to know about any medicine your child is taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. If your child’s weight gain occurred after he or she began taking a medicine, share that information with your doctor. Some medicines can contribute to weight gain.
When should I consider a weight-loss program for my child?
If you become concerned about your child’s weight – either because you notice that he or she seems to be gaining weight, is showing signs of feeling badly about his or her weight, or has signs of emotional eating or other problems – talk to your family doctor. Do not put your child on a weight-loss diet without talking to your doctor first. Children need a certain amounts of calories and nutrients to grow, learn and develop.
What can I do to help my child with weight issues?
Healthy habits, such as proper nutrition and physical activity, can help prevent or correct weight problems and protect against the health and social problems that come with being overweight or obese.
Here are a few ideas:
- Keep healthy snacks readily available, such as fruits like apples and bananas, and raw veggies like carrots and celery. Keep unhealthy foods out of the house.
- Include plenty of low-fat proteins, vegetables and whole grains in the meals you make.
- Avoid fast-food dining.
- Choose the healthiest options available when at fast-food or sit-down restaurants.
- Limit time in front of the TV, computer or game station to no more than 2 hours each day.
- Encourage your child to be active. Aim for at least 1 hour of active play every day.
- Encourage your child to get involved in physical activities that appeal to him or her. Some kids will enjoy team or group activities while others will enjoy activities that can be done alone.
- Include physical activity in your family’s daily life. Plan active family outings.
- Be a good role model. Live what you teach by eating smart and exercising.
For the best outcome, any nutrition and activity program should involve the entire family, not just the child who is overweight or obese. Try not to think of the changes you’re making as a temporary “diet” or “program.” Instead, think of it as a permanent plan to improve the health of your whole family.
This content was developed with general underwriting support from The Coca-Cola Company.
See a list of resources used in the development of this information.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff