- Diet & Weight Loss
How to Help Your Obese Child Lose Weight
Helping Your Obese Child Lose Weight
According to KidsHealth.org, one of every three kids in the U.S. is now overweight or obese. That translates to sixteen to thirty-three percent of the population of children and adolescents in America. A lot, in other words.
On top of the physical health risks posed by their condition, obese children can suffer terrible teasing and bullying, which in turn is harmful to them emotionally. It’s hard for mom and dad to know that their kids are hurting, whether it’s inside or out. Unfortunately, for many it is equally difficult to know how to best help their child.
The first piece of advice is take your overweight child to your family physician. Ruling out physical causes, such as thyroid problems, should be addressed and having the child checked out before starting them on a new regime is always a good idea.
Does Your Child Need Help With His Weight?
When Does Overweight Become Obese?
While no great amount of extra weight is good, how much does a child have to weigh before falling under the technical definition of obese? The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that generally speaking, “a child is not considered obese until their weight is at least ten percent higher than what is recommended for the height and body type.”
That may be a relief for some but if you notice that your youngster is getting steadily heavier, it bears some attention.
Since the onset of obesity typically begins either around five or six years of age or during adolescence, it's best not to let it go on for any longer than necessary. The reason is not just about immediate health concerns. AACAP says that studies have shown that there is an eighty percent chance of a child who is obese between the ages of ten and thirteen to grow up to be an obese adult. Parents need to take action as soon as possible, yet in a safe way.
ABC Report on Childhood Obesity
Causes of Childhood Obesity
Most people know the answer. With other health issues ruled out, poor diet and low physical activity are usually to blame, though emotional issues are sometimes culprits and help from a professional should be sought immediately if that's what you suspect.
The good news in all of this is that diet and lack of activity are lifestyle habits and choices that can be changed, with a parent's help.
Causes of Obesity According to AACAP
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry lists the following potential causes of obesity in children:
- poor eating habits
- overeating or binging
- lack of exercise (i.e., couch potato kids)
- family history of obesity
- medical illnesses (endocrine, neurological problems)
- medications (steroids, some psychiatric medications)
- stressful life events or changes (separations, divorce, moves, deaths, abuse)
- family and peer problems
- low self-esteem
- depression or other emotional problems
How to Help Your Obese Child Lose Weight
As mentioned above, always have your overweight or obese child checked out by a doctor. If the cause of their weight gain is from medication or an underlying medical condition, it needs to be tended to. An existing issue may be the root of the problem.
While you're there, talk to your primary care physician about a safe method of weight loss, as well as realistic goals. Children should lose less weight per month than an adult, typically one to four pounds. Avoid drastic diets and do what you can not to focus too much on the whole weight issue, especially with teens. Too much emphasis on dieting and weight can lead to eating disorders, which can become very serious.
If you've taken care of all that and everything else is fine then it's time for a course of action. As the parent, you're going to have to intervene and lead your child to a healthier life.
These are just common sense tips but they work. It goes without saying that meals and snacks are portion controlled and consist of fresh fruits, vegetables and things that are baked rather fried.
- Make sure that meals and snacks are healthy and served at regular times every day.
- Offer a variety of fresh, healthy foods to avoid your child becoming bored. If you can make it fun or let them help prepare the food, so much the better.
- Consult a nutritionist for healthy, balanced meal plans.
- Do not use food to bribe or reward your child.
- Eat meals together as a family. Set a good example of eating healthy and use the time to bond with your child. Teach your child to relax and eat slowly. Naturally, you're sitting at the table and not in front of the TV or computer. In fact, they aren't even on.
- Make yours a 'No junk food' home. Keep healthy snacks on hand, such as carrots, celery sticks, granola bars or rice cakes. There are lots of different choices these days, so mix things up to stave off boredom.
- If necessary, consider getting your child extra support via a group such as Overeaters Anonymous.
- Forget directions to the fast food place because it does not belong in a weight loss program.
To help drop the pounds, an obese child needs to include more physical activity in his or her day. Don't push too hard at first. Start them off with something mild and fun and gradually increase the amount of activity.
- Get the whole family involved. It doesn't matter whether it's bike riding, hiking, skating, or doing yard work as long you are together and active. Not only does this draw you closer but it also sets a shining example of getting fit. Besides, it's fun.
- If you can afford it, enroll your child in classes, such as dance, swimming, gymnastics or martial arts. Often times, you can find organizations in your town that offer low or no cost activities like these for children. Your local YMCA is probably a good place to start.
- Limit television and computer time. These turn lively kids into couch potatoes. Ideally, a child spends no more than an hour or two a day total sitting in front of them.
- Encourage playtime. Chase them around the yard in a game of tag, give them a new skipping rope or throw a ball around. Again, it'll just seem like fun and feel less like a weight loss program.
- Go for a walk every evening.
For more help visit The Obesity Society
The Obesity Society also offers a variety of educational and informative links on their American Obesity Association page of websites.
Focus Adolescent Services offers information, resources and support links for teens and families.
HelpGuide.org has various articles on eating disorders, along with advice on how to handle them if you're a friend or parent.
Your obese child has probably felt self-conscious for awhile. When he or she has lost some weight, use it as an excuse to celebrate and help them feel good about what they're accomplishing. No, I'm not suggesting cake or some other calorie-laden food.
When the child has dropped a size, why not buy them a new piece of clothing to reflect the fact that they're starting to slim down. Perhaps something they've expressed a wish for that they couldn't fit into before. This is especially important to teens, who are image conscious to the extreme. They'll have proof that their diet regime is working and they'll feel better about themselves.
If things are tight financially, you don't have to spend any money to compliment and congratulate your son or daughter. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way towards giving your obese child the motivation they need to continue losing weight. This is a hard thing they're doing. Let them know you're proud of them.