Overweight: A Weight Reduction Program
weighs more than 20 percent over the
ideal weight for his or her height.
fold thickness of her upper arm's fat
layer is more than 1 inch (25
millimeters) when measured with a
More than 25
percent of American children are overweight.
to be overweight is usually inherited. If
one parent is overweight, probably half of
the children will be overweight. If both
parents are overweight, most of their
children will be overweight. If neither
parent is overweight, the children have a
10% chance of being overweight.
alone (without overeating) accounts for most
mild obesity, whereas moderate obesity is
usually due to a combination of heredity,
overeating, and underexercising. Some
overeating is normal in our society, but
only those who have the inherited tendency
to be overweight will gain significant
weight when they overeat. Therefore, it is
important to be sensitive to the causes of
why your child may be overweight.
Less than 1%
of obesity has an underlying medical cause.
Your physician can determine whether your
child's obesity has a physical cause.
is very difficult. Keeping the weight off is
also a chore. The best time for losing
weight is when a child is over 15 years old;
that is, when he or she becomes very
concerned with appearance. The
self-motivated teenager can follow a diet
and lose weight regardless of what the
family eats. Helping children lose weight
between 5 and 15 years of age is very
difficult because they have access to so
many foods outside the home and are not
easily motivated to lose weight. During this
age group it may be effective for the
parents to role model by setting healthy
eating habits. It is not quite as difficult
to help a child less than 5 years old to
lose weight because the parents have better
control of the foods offered to the child.
important to note that the following
guidelines apply to children older than 5
years of age. Consult your child's doctor if
you have questions or concerns about
children under the age of 5.
How to Help Older
Children and Teenagers Lose Weight
can increase their motivation by joining
a weight-loss club such as TOPS or
Weight Watchers. Sometimes schools have
classes for helping children lose
weight. A child's motivation often can
be improved if diet and exercise
programs are undertaken by the entire
family. A cooperative parent-child
weight loss program with individual
goals is usually more helpful than a
competitive program focused on who can
lose weight faster.
your child's self-esteem
Self-esteem is more important than an
ideal body weight. If your child is
overweight, he is probably already
disappointed in himself. A supportive
family can help build a healthy
self-esteem for overweight youngsters.
Below is a list of possible pitfalls for
tell your child he's fat. Don't
discuss his weight unless he brings
Never try to put your child on a
strict diet. Diets will need to be
discussed with your child's doctor
as they may have medical
deprive your child of food if he
says he is hungry. Not letting a
child eat eventually leads to
nag your child about his weight or
realistic target weight dependent on
your child's bone structure and degree
of obesity. The loss of 1 pound a week
is an attainable goal. However, your
child will have to work quite hard to
lose this much weight every week for
several weeks. Your child should weigh
himself no more than once each week;
daily weighing generates too much false
hope or disappointment. When losing
weight becomes a strain, have your child
take a few weeks off from the
weight-loss program. During this time,
help your child stay at a constant
child has reached the target weight, the
long-range goal is to try to stay within
5 pounds of that weight. Staying at a
particular weight is possible only
through a permanent moderation in
eating. Your child will probably always
have the tendency to gain weight easily
and it's important that she understand
sure to discuss the weight loss program
with your child's doctor.
Decreasing calorie consumption
child should eat three well-balanced
meals a day of average-sized portions.
There are no forbidden foods; your child
can have a serving of anything family or
friends are eating. However, there are
forbidden portions. While your child is
reducing, she must leave the table a bit
hungry. Your child cannot lose weight if
she eats until she is full (satiated).
Encourage average portions instead of
large portions and discourage seconds.
Shortcuts such as fasting, crash
dieting, or diet pills rarely work and
may be dangerous. Liquid diets are safe
only if they are used according to
counting is helpful for some people, but
it is usually too time-consuming.
Consider the following guidelines on
what to eat and drink:
Mainly use low-calorie drinks such
as skim milk, fruit juice diluted in
half with water, diet drinks, or
flavored mineral water. Because milk
has lots of calories, your child
should drink no more than 16 ounces
of skim, 1%, or 2% milk each day. He
should drink no more than 8 ounces
of fruit juice a day. All other
drinks should be either water or
diet drinks. Encourage your child to
drink six glasses of water each day.
Serve fewer fatty foods (for
example, eggs, bacon, sausage, and
butter). A portion of fat has twice
as many calories as the same portion
of protein or carbohydrate. Trim the
fat off meats. Serve more baked,
broiled, boiled, or steamed foods
and fewer fried foods. Serve more
fruits, vegetables, salads, and
smaller-than-average portions of
desserts. Encourage more Jell-O and
fresh fruits as desserts. Avoid rich
desserts. Do not serve second
For snacks serve only low-calorie
foods such as raw vegetables (carrot
sticks, celery sticks, raw potato
sticks, pickles, etc.), raw fruits
(apples, oranges, cantaloupe, etc.),
popcorn, or diet soft drinks. Your
child should have no more than two
snacks a day.
Vitamins: Give your child one
multivitamin tablet daily during the
Use your child's doctor as a
resource to guide you in this
counteract the tendency to gain weight,
your youngster must be taught eating
habits that will last for a lifetime.
You can help your child lose and keep
off unwanted pounds by doing the
Discourage skipping any of the three
Encourage drinking a glass of water
chewing the food slowly.
second servings only if your child
has waited for 10 minutes after
finishing the first serving.
purchase high-calorie snack foods
such as potato chips, candy, or
regular soft drinks.
purchase and keep available diet
soft drinks, fresh fruits, and
only low-calorie snacks out on the
counter--fruit, for example. Put
away the cookie jar.
food only in the kitchen. Keep it
out of other rooms.
more than two snacks each day.
Discourage your child from continual
snacking ("grazing") throughout the
eating in your home only at the
kitchen or dining-room table.
Discourage eating while watching TV,
studying, riding in a car, or
shopping in a store. Once eating
becomes associated with these
activities, the body learns to
Discourage eating alone.
your child reward herself for hard
work or studying with a movie, TV,
music, or a book instead of food.
child approves, have him post some
reminder cards on the refrigerator
and bathroom mirror that state "EAT
LESS" or "STICK TO THE PROGRAM."
Increasing calorie expenditure
exercise can increase the rate of weight
loss as well as the sense of physical
well-being. The combination of diet and
exercise is the most effective way to
lose weight. Try the following forms of
or riding a bicycle instead of
riding in a car.
stairs instead of elevators.
new sports. Swimming and jogging are
the sports that burn the most
calories. Your child's school may
have an aerobics class.
the dog for a long walk.
30 minutes a day exercising or
dancing to records or music on TV.
exercise bike or Hula Hoop while
watching TV. (Limit TV sitting time
to 2 hours or less each day.)
activities: Keeping the mind off food
outside activities your child
participates in, the easier it will be
for her to lose weight. Spare time
fosters nibbling. Most snacking occurs
between 3 and 6 PM. Help your child fill
after-school time with activities such
as music, drama, sports, or scouts. A
part-time job after school may help. If
nothing else, encourage your child to
call or visit friends. An active social
life almost always leads to weight
Call Your Child's
Physician During Office Hours If:
has not improved his eating and exercise
habits after trying this program for 2
is a compulsive overeater.
yourself frequently nagging your child
about his eating habits.
is trying to lose weight and doesn't
your child is depressed.
has no close friends.
other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D.
Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's
Health," Bantam Books.
Published by Clinical Reference Systems, a
division of HBO & Company.
Copyright © 1988-2000 HBO & Company. All
Adapted from content provided
by iMcKesson, LLC
Review Date: 7/23/2001