It’s Never to Early to Start! Children & Weight Management

There is never a bad time to take charge of your weight. It is an intensely personal decision to become a better you. But things can be a little different when you are a a child or the parent of a child with a weight issue.

Being clinically diagnosed as overweight or obese as a child can have a lasting impact on their physical and emotional well-being, well into adulthood.

Like adults, the extra weight can put children at risk for developing serious health problems including asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. And like adults, the extra weight may prevent children from participating in a variety of activities, develop a negative body image, low self-esteem, depression, and an unhealthy relationship with food.

The challenge for parents lies in understanding how their children have become obese or overweight in the first place, and providing a proper nutrition for their children’s health and growth.

The first step is to determine if your child is, indeed, overweight or obese. These discussions usually begin with a routine visit to your child’s doctor, where they regularly measure height and weight in conjunction with your child’s age. Children grow at different rates at different times. And body fat differs between the genders, as well as age. The US Center for Disease Control created the Body Mass Index-for-Age, a guide for children and teens that includes gender and age in its calculations for healthy weight ranges.

The second step involves an analysis not only of your child’s behavior, but also your family behaviors. Oftentimes, it is recommended to make lifestyle changes as such that your child will grow into the current weight as he or she gets taller.

Behaviors include:
- types of groceries in the house
- frequency eating outside of the home
- food choice
- consuming larger portions than necessary
- types of snacks and the frequency of snacking
- amount of screen time
- amount of physical activity

Some of these behaviors are dictated by the schools your child is in, such as no snacking allowed, the availability of fresh, healthy school lunches, and the reduction or elimination of physical education activities. As a parent you can take control of things that happen at home.
Depending on the age of your child will dictate some of the changes you will make and the level of engagement your child will have. These changes don’t have to be monumental, either.

  • It can begin with providing healthier options, and slowly reducing the amount of unhealthy options.
  • It can be a simple as shifting to increased participation in physical activities: a family walk after dinner, deciding sign up for a new sport, or playing active indoor games.
  • It can be setting regular family meal times and focusing on portion sizes.
  • It can be starting a family discussion on what is healthy, including knowing when your body is full, and offering non-food rewards for certain behaviors.
  • And, depending on your child’s age, it can also include engaging them in the meal creation process.

Most weight loss plans are not designed for children, so it is extremely important to consult with healthcare professionals to medically determine the best course of action for your child. These programs will be most effective when the entire family is committed to making lifestyle changes. Great programs should also include a variety of health professionals, a weight maintenance program, and extra support and referral sources that can address underlying issues related to becoming overweight.

Contact the experts at the Metabolic Medial Centers to determine the best weight management plan for you and your family.

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