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When Your Child Is Overweight: Care Instructions

Overview

In some children, weight spurts (when they gain weight) happen before height spurts (when they get taller). Other children just gain more weight than they need for their height. This is how children become overweight.

Parents, other family members, and friends can all help your child who is at risk of or has become overweight. You can show that having fun while being active, eating healthy foods, and feeling good about yourself are all part of a healthy lifestyle.

A child whose weight is ahead of their height, or who is considered overweight, may develop long-term health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet and more exercise can help your child have better health and more energy so that your child can do better at school and enjoy more activities.

It may help to know that you don't have to make huge changes at once. Change takes time. Start by making small changes in eating habits and exercise as a family. Weight loss diets aren't recommended for most children. The best way to help your child stay at a healthy weight is to increase your child's activity level. The goal is to have your child gain weight more slowly while making sure they're still growing taller.

If you have questions about how to make changes to your family's eating habits, ask your doctor about seeing a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you and your child develop healthier eating habits.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Set goals that are possible. Your doctor can help set a good weight goal.
  • Avoid weight loss diets. They can affect your child's growth in height.
  • Make healthy changes as a family. Try not to single out your child.
  • Ask your doctor about other health professionals who can help you and your child make healthy changes.
    • A dietitian can suggest new food ideas and help you and your child with healthy eating choices.
    • An exercise specialist or personal trainer can help you and your child find fun ways to be active.
    • A counsellor or psychiatrist can help you and your child with any issues that may make it hard to focus on healthy choices. These may include depression, anxiety, or family problems.
  • Try to talk about your child's health, activity level, and other healthy choices. Try not to talk about your child's weight. The way you talk about your child's body can really affect how your child feels about their body.

To eat well

  • Eat together as a family as much as possible. Offer the same food choices to the whole family.
  • Keep a regular meal and snack routine. Don't snack all day. Schedule snacks for when your child is most hungry, such as after school or exercise. This is important because if children skip a meal or snack, they may overeat at the next meal or make unhealthy food choices.
  • Share the responsibility. You decide when, where, and what the family eats. But your child chooses how much, whether, and what to eat from the options you provide. This can help prevent eating problems caused by power struggles.
  • Don't use food to reward your child for doing a good job or for eating all of their green beans. You want your child to eat healthy food because it's healthy, not so they can eat dessert.
  • Serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. You can add some fruit to your child's morning cereal and put sliced vegetables in your child's lunch.

To be more active

  • Move more. Make physical activity a part of your family's daily life. Encourage your child to be active for at least 1 hour every day.
  • Keep total TV and computer time to less than 2 hours each day. Encourage outdoor play as often as possible.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.