Question: What can I do to help my child, who is overweight?
You are not alone in having an overweight or obese child.
The prevalence of obesity among school-age children (6 to 11 years) has dramatically increased from 6.5 percent in 1976 to 19.6 percent in 2008..
In adolescents (12 to 19 years), the prevalence shot up from 5.0 in 1976 to 18.1 percent in 2008.
This increase is due to a number of factors which generally include poor eating habits, lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyles due to watching TV and playing video games.
Pediatricians are also finding obesity at much younger ages, often under the age of 5.
This has dire implications for children’s’ health, not only in childhood but also as they grow into adults.
A relatively low number of obese children have a problem with their endocrine glands, but it is important to rule out thyroid disorder or a steroid hormone imbalance which will need more specific treatment.
With an obese child, it’s vitally important that the parents and other adults in the child’s life are supportive and accepting.
Make sure he or she feels loved, special and important.
But at the same time, be firm about making healthy eating choices, such as fruits and vegetables.
Buy fewer soft drinks and high-fat or high-calorie snack foods. They may be OK once in a while, but offer healthy choices more often.
Encourage daily physical activity, at least for a half-hour each day, and preferably for a full hour.
You may have to set a good example and be active together as a family.
Avoid activities that embarrass the child.
Discourage inactive pastimes by setting limits on the amount of time your family spends watching TV, playing video games and being on the computer.
Consult the child’s physician if these steps fail to reduce your child’s weight.
The doctor should have materials to help you or may refer you to other health care professionals who work with overweight children.
In some cases, a weight-control program may be necessary.
Marshfield Clinic provides children's specialties in a number of our centers. Your primary care doctor can refer you to the appropriate specialty and location.