Children Can Outgrow Weight Problems—With Some Healthy Changes
A child might say the worst part of being heavy is the teasing. You, too, probably dread the thought of your child being mocked or bullied.
But the health effects of childhood obesity stretch years beyond the playground. That’s why it’s so important to catch weight problems early before they become a lifelong issue.
Heart disease and other problems skyrocket
Children with extreme weight problems have a higher risk for many health problems—during childhood and into adulthood:
Children with obesity are more susceptible to having low self-esteem and can struggle with depression and negative body image.
Children who are obese are more likely to be obese as adults. Several serious health conditions are associated with adult obesity, including heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes.
Obese children often develop breathing problems, such as asthma and sleep apnea.
Children with obesity have a higher risk of developing other chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and bone and joint problems.
Healthy Changes Can Prevent Obesity
If you think your child has a weight problem, talk with his or her pediatrician. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends doctors conduct obesity screenings for children and teens ages 6 and older and offer behavioral interventions as necessary.
Most overweight children don’t need to go on a diet. They simply need to be encouraged to eat healthier foods and move around more. Try adopting small—but meaningful—habits that can last your child’s lifetime:
Instead of restricting how much food your child eats, offer healthy choices that include lots of low-fat proteins, whole grains, and vegetables.
Keep healthy snacks in your home, such as apples, bananas, carrots, and celery.
Set limits on TV and computer time, and encourage your child to do something active.
Sit down for family meals as often as possible and avoid eating in front of the television, computer, or other electronic devices.
Plan family exercise times. You could go for a walk or play basketball—find activities you enjoy doing together.
Cut out sugary beverages, such as carbonated sodas. Offer water or fat-free or low-fat milk instead.
Avoid getting fast food. If you do go out to eat though, choose the healthiest options available.
What if your child is already considered obese? Try implementing some of these same healthy strategies. If your child’s weight problem is severe, the pediatrician may recommend additional steps.