70 million Americans are obese. More than one in three of all
adults and one in five of all children are overweight. Research
suggests the best opportunity to address problems of overweight
and obesity is before childhood. Change becomes more difficult
as the child reaches adolescence.
Some adults may not be well suited to speak to a child about
their obesity. Their personal biases or struggles about weight
issues may negatively affect their ability to talk with a child
in a supportive, non-judgmental way. Consider other individuals
who may be more helpful or effective in connecting with the child.
Choose a private place to speak with the child; somewhere
you can focus on the discussion. Pick a time when both you and
the child do not have to be rushed. Avoid addressing issues when
emotions are high.
Begin the discussion by expressing your acceptance and approval
the child. The child's weight should not be associated with their
approval or acceptance. Look at the positive aspects of the child.
Allow the child to express their concerns and experiences.
Listen and empathize. Try to understand the child's perceptions
of the issues. Discuss feelings, concerns for their health, social
implications. Understand, the child may have a positive esteem
and body image despite being overweight. This is to be encouraged.
However, if the child expressed poor body image, be sensitive
and acknowledge their pain.
Overweight kids may have feelings of depression from being
teased or not being popular, particularly when they are developing
interest in the opposite sex. Negative body image may decrease
self-esteem. They can develop negative feelings of school and
other social settings. They often become discouraged and drop
out of sports or other physical activities when they are unable
to perform at the level of their peers.
overweight kids do not know what to do or where to turn for help.
Invite them to share their concerns with you anytime. Express
your willingness to support appropriate health and wellness goals.
Do not focus on weight loss as a criteria for success, but instead
emphasize healthier habits, improved fitness, increased energy,
Older children must make the decision to start the weight
management program. They should not be made to do anything against
their will. A program initiated without the child's true consent
will be short lived. Certainly, a younger child's eating habits
and daily activities must be shaped by proper parenting skills
and modeling. A child's or teenagers's motivation to lose weight
may come from a variety of factors including health, social aspirations,
sports or performance goals, desire to fit in clothes, inspiration
from peers, siblings, fitness models, or sports figures.
The family should seek the assistance from a variety of experienced
professionals. The family should be educated about the complications
of obesity. Ongoing support for the family will help maintain
their new behaviors. A healthcare provider should be consulted
before placing a child on a weight-reduction diet.
The family and all caregivers should be involved in the treatment
program. The family must be ready for change. If the family is
not prepared to change their diet or activity, or feels obesity
is inevitable, the program should either be deferred or the family
should be referred to a qualified therapist.
Treatment should involve permanent changes, not short term
diets or exercise regimens aimed at rapid weight loss. Small,
gradual, and targeted changes in activity and diet should be
implemented. A flexible and a balanced approach to eating and
exercise should be encouraged. A program for overweight children
should reduce the rate of body weight gain while allowing growth