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Obesity in Children
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Obesity occurs when a child weighs more than is healthy for his or her age, height, and gender. Obesity is diagnosed with a physical exam and a measurement of body mass index (BMI). Healthcare providers use your child's height and weight to measure the BMI. A child is obese when the BMI is 95% or higher than it should be for his or her age and gender. Obesity in children is treated with lifestyle changes.
Return to the emergency department if:
- Your child has a severe headache or vision problems.
Contact your child's healthcare provider if:
- Your child has signs of gallbladder or liver disease, such as pain in his upper abdomen.
- Your child has hip or knee pain and discomfort while walking.
- Your child has signs of diabetes, such as being very hungry, very thirsty, and urinating often.
- Your child has lost interest in social activities, does not want to go to school, or seems depressed.
- Your child has trouble breathing during physical activity.
- Your child has signs of sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, snoring, or bed wetting.
- You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.
Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:
Your child may need follow-up visits to check his weight. You and your child may need to meet with a dietitian. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Eating changes your family can make:
- Stick to a schedule of 3 meals a day and 1 or 2 healthy snacks. Meals and snacks should be 2 to 4 hours apart. Only offer water between meals. Eat meals at the table.
- Eat dinner together as a family as often as possible. Ask your child to help you prepare meals. Limit fast food and restaurant meals because they are often high in calories.
- Reduce portion sizes. Use small plates, no larger than 9 inches in diameter. Fill your child's plate half full of fruits and vegetables. Do not put serving dishes on the table. Do not make your child finish everything on his plate.
- Limit soda, sports drinks, and fruit juice. These sugary beverages are high in calories. Offer your child water as his main beverage.
- Pack healthy lunches. An example is a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with an apple, baby carrots, and low-fat milk.
Activity changes your family can make:
- Encourage your child to be active for 60 minutes most days of the week. Find sports or activities that are fun for your child, such as cycling, swimming, or running. Also be active with your child. Go for a walk, go bowling, or play at a park.
- Limit TV, video games, and computer time to 1 to 2 hours each day. Do not let your child have a TV in his bedroom. Do not allow eating in front of a TV or computer. Turn off electronic devices at a set time each evening.
- Enforce a regular bedtime. Make sure your child gets at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep schedules that are not consistent can affect your child's weight.
How you can help your child:
- Set small goals, and work on 1 or 2 goals at a time. An example of a small goal is to offer fruits and vegetables at every meal. Aim for progress, not perfection.
- Teach your child how to make healthy choices at school and when he is away from home. Praise your child when he makes healthy choices. Do not talk about diets or weight. Do not allow teasing in your home.
- Do not use food to reward or punish your child. Reward him with fun activities or social events with friends.
- Try not to bring chips, cookies, and other unhealthy foods into your home. Shop for healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurt, nuts, and low-fat cheese.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.