Your Child’s Weight – When It’s Time to Intervene
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
At what point should I worry about my child’s weight?
First, contact your family healthcare provider about your child’s weight. It can be hard to tell whether you child actually has a weight problem. Your healthcare provider 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 they are 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 healthcare provider if you have noticed any other unusual changes in your child, such as fatigue, constipation or dry skin. This information will help your healthcare provider better evaluate your child’s weight gain.
Your healthcare provider will want to know about any medicine your child is taking, including vitamins and herbal supplements. If your child’s weight gain occurred after they began taking a medicine, share that information with your healthcare provider. 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 they seem to be gaining weight, are showing signs of feeling badly about their weight, or have signs of emotional eating or other problems – contact your healthcare provider. Do not put your child on a weight-loss diet without talking to your healthcare provider first. Children need a certain amount 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 them. 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.
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 )