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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Management of Child and Adolescent Obesity: Psychological, Emotional, and Behavioral Assessment by Jonides L, Buschbacher V, Barlow SE ( Pediatrics 2002;110:215-21 )
Reversing the trend of childhood obesity by Stroup DF, Johnson V, Hahn RS, Proctor DC (Prev Chronic Dis 2009;6(3):A83 )
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff