Have you recently discovered your child is obese? If so, then you probably have a lot of things going through your mind. You want to determine the best path for your child moving forward and how to attack this problem. But first, stop, relax, and take a deep breath. As parents it’s our job to take care of our children’s needs.
This can be extremely stressful if you are not prepared for this type of situation. It may be difficult for you to talk about this topic with others because of the stigma attached to obesity. However, if you have recently discovered your child is obese, you should contact an Expert Source™ today to learn more about what steps need to be taken moving forward.
What To Do If Your Child Is Obese
If your child is very overweight, there’s lots you can do to help them become a healthy weight as they grow.
Very overweight children tend to grow up to be very overweight adults, which can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
Research shows children who achieve a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and are more self-confident. They’re also less likely to have low self-esteem and be bullied.
As a parent, there’s lots you can do to help your child become a healthier weight. Getting them to be more active and eat well is important.
Listen to your child’s concern about their weight. Overweight children often know they have a weight problem, and they need to feel supported and in control of their weight.
Let them know that you love them, whatever their weight, and all you want is for them to be healthy and happy.
Steps for success
Here are 5 key ways to help your child achieve a healthy weight:
- be a good role model
- encourage 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of physical activity a day
- keep to child-sized portions
- eat healthy meals, drinks and snacks
- less screen time and more sleep
If your child has a medical condition, the advice in this article may not be relevant. You should check with a GP or hospital doctor first.
Be a good role model
One of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is to be a good role model.
Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to enourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself.
Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV or surfing the internet.
Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them being active is fun.
Any changes you make to your child’s diet and lifestyle are much more likely to be accepted if the changes are small and involve the whole family.
Find out ways to get healthy as a family
If you’re not sure what activities you’d like to try as a family, try this Which sport are you made for? tool to find out what you’re best suited to.
Very overweight children don’t need to do more exercise than slimmer children. Their extra body weight means they’ll naturally burn more calories for the same activity.
All children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once.
Several short 10-minute, or even 5-minute, bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch.
For younger children it can take the form of active play, such as ball games, chasing games like “it” and “tag”, riding a scooter, and using playground swings, climbing frames and see-saws.
For older children it could include riding a bike, skateboarding, walking to school, skipping, swimming, dancing and martial arts.
If your child isn’t used to being active, encourage them to start with what they can do and build up to 60 minutes a day.
They’re more likely to stick to their new activity levels if you let them choose the type of activity they’re comfortable with.
Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family. And you’ll save money, too.
Find out the amount and types of physical activity recommended for under-5s
Find out the amount and types of physical activity recommended for children and young people aged 5 to 18
Join Change4Life for free and your child will get their own personalised activity plan full of good ideas for getting moving.
Try to avoid feeding your child large portions. A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they’re still hungry.
Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to.
And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.
Beware of high-calorie foods. Calories are a measure of the energy in food.
Knowing how many calories your child consumes each day, and balancing that with the amount of energy they use up in activity, will help them reach and stay at a healthy weight.
You can keep track of your child’s daily calorie intake with MyFitnessPal’s free online calorie counter (also available as an app).
Explain to your child how to get the balance of their diet right using the Eatwell Guide. It shows how much they should eat from each food group.
Eat healthy meals
Children, just like adults, should aim to eat 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day. They’re a great source of fibre and vitamins and minerals.
Getting 5 A Day shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5 A Day, including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried.
Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count.
But be aware that unsweetened 100% fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies can only ever count as a maximum of 1 portion of their 5 A Day.
For example, if they have 2 glasses of fruit juice and a smoothie in 1 day, that still only counts as 1 portion.
Their combined total of drinks from fruit juice, vegetable juice and smoothies shouldn’t be more than 150ml a day, which is a small glass.
For example, if they have 150ml of orange juice and a 150ml smoothie in 1 day, they’ll have exceeded the recommendation by 150ml.
When fruit is blended or juiced, it releases the sugars. This increases the risk of tooth decay, so it’s best to drink fruit juice or smoothies at mealtimes.
Discourage your child from having sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals, and sugar-sweetened soft and fizzy drinks.
These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.
Aim for your child to get most of their calories from healthier foods like fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods like bread, potatoes, pasta and rice (preferably wholemeal).
And switch sweetened drinks for water.
Get ideas for sugar swaps when you shop and healthier swaps for breakfast, snacks and puddings.
Less screen time and more sleep
Help your children avoid sitting and lying around too much, as it makes it more likely for them to put on weight.
Limit the amount of time your child spends on inactive pastimes such as watching television, playing video games and playing on electronic devices.
There’s no hard and fast advice on how much is too much, but experts say children should watch no more than 2 hours of television each day.
And remove all screens (including mobile phones) from their bedroom at night.
It also helps children stay trim if they sleep well. It’s been shown that children who don’t have the recommended amount of sleep are more likely to be overweight.
The less children sleep, the greater the risk of them becoming obese. Lack of sleep can also affect their mood and behaviour.
If you have received a letter about your child’s weight after they were measured at school, you can use the contact number on the letter to speak to a health worker and get more information about what you can do and what support is available in your area.
A GP or practice nurse can give you further advice. They also may be able to refer you to a local weight management programme for children, such as those run by MEND and More Life.
These programmes are often free to attend through your local health authority, and typically involve a series of weekly group workshop sessions with other parents and their children.
You’ll learn more about the diet and lifestyle changes that can help your child achieve a healthy weight.
What is Obesity
Body Mass Index (BMI)
The body mass index (BMI) is used to measure weight in kilograms to height in meters. The range of BMI varies in children with age and sex. The body mass index is a simple method of measuring body fat by considering the ratio of weight with height. A high body mass index indicates high body fatness. It is one of the inexpensive methods to screen for body fat. The commonly used indicator to measure the size of the growth pattern of children is the percentile growth charts. For normal weight, the percentile range is between 5th to 85th percentiles. In an obese child, the percentile is equal to or greater than the 95th percentile.
Factors that cause obesity
Many factors are responsible for obesity in children and adolescents which includes excessive food intake, genetic factors, eating junk food, hormonal problems, family eating patterns, medical problems, physical inactivity, environmental and emotional disturbances. Basal metabolic rate is also considered to be a cause for obesity. Obese children have lower metabolic rates. Fast food consumption is another contributor to obesity. Working parent opts for fast foods due to lack of time for cooking. Fast foods contain lower nutritional value and high calories of weight gaining substances. Obese children tend to be lazy and show little interest in losing weight. Self-motivation lacks in these obese children. The present modern lifestyle has a major role in making children obese. The packaged food, decreased physical activity, watching television and increased use of technology contributes to weight gain in children. Stress and depression can make the child indulge in overeating.
Effects of obesity in children
Obesity represents a major concern for the health professionals which predicts future health hazards. Obesity in childhood has harmful effects on the body. Major diseases such as heart issues, hypertension, depression, diabetes, muscular and skeletal problems, and gynaecological disorders arise due to obesity. Obesity leads to problems such as breathing difficulties, sleep disturbances, gallstones liver diseases, the children also suffer from low self-esteem, socio-physical and emotional disturbances. If the children are overweight they may also become obese adults. Children may also experience psychological and behavioral problems. Obesity in adulthood is dangerous and life-threatening.
What parents can do to help obese children
- Parents should set an example by having a healthy lifestyle. Parents should help the child in reducing weight. Avoid making fun of the child; do not call the child by names. Keep a track of BMI and seek the advice of counselors. Enable for good health and promote positive eating healthy habits.
- Help the child in choosing the right food for meals. Fix healthy dietary habits to stay fit. Avoid buying junk food which includes chips, candies, baked items, fried foods and try to substitute them with healthy homemade foods. Provide liquids in the form of juice, fruits smoothies, buttermilk and fresh fruits. Include vegetables, whole grains, dry foods and fiber foods in the meals. Provide balanced food. Include low-fat milk
- Avoid making fun of the child, do not call the child by names. Help the child to develop self-esteem and develop mental strength. Ensure for child’s respect at school and at home. Provide an appositive approach for the child to cope with her/his condition
- Have patience and talk to the child for better health state with an honest conversation. Avoid hurting the child and insulting comments to the child. Provide unconditional love and affection for the child to feel safe. Create an atmosphere of security and the feeling that the child has a loving family who cares
- Accept the child as he is or she is. Share the child’s concern and involve them in family gatherings. Highlight the good qualities in them to develop their personality. Encourage them to actively take part in physical exercises, yoga and tips to control weight. Allow the child to play with other children. Make the child do small tasks at home in housekeeping or any other work
- Find ways to make child reduce weight without causing any side effect. Keep a food diary to know what the child is consuming so that you are aware of the eating habits of the child. Consultant the dietitian and doctors for advice on how to reduce weight
- Follow the instructions strictly, help and make the child understand the importance of reducing the weight. Do not expect for overnight results, have patience and try not to give up the task. Try to reduce their television watching or playing video games or mobile. Encourage the child to walk or cycle instead of using motorbike
- Do not encourage the child to eat snacks while watching TV. Do not deprive the child the treats occasionally. Allow the child to help in cooking meals. Teach them the importance of healthy food, why the need to have nutritious food for life
- Encourage your child in gardening, do not allow the child to sit idle unless he/she needs rest and is sick. Make the child work in a constructive way to reduce body fat
The child’s well-being and happiness lie with the parents’ cooperation, support and constant help to children to become normal and lead a healthy life. As parents adhering to a healthy lifestyle and being an example will make the child follow them. It motivates them towards a positive approach in the weight-reducing process. Instil in children the consequences of being obese and how to deal with it to stay fit.