Treating obesity in kids can be very challenging; often dealing with this issue requires lifestyle changes for the whole family. However, you do not want to ignore obesity in children, since it can be the cause of serious health problems.
- The first step is identifying whether your child has a weight problem. As kids grow, they have natural fluctuations in their weight; sometimes a child will gain several pounds before a growth spurt as a normal part of development. Look at the trends in your child's growth and address long-term patterns as opposed to worrying about short-term changes.
- Even if your kids are not currently obese, you should familiarize yourself with the risk factors for obesity to develop. A family history of obesity can be an early indicator of this condition in children. In addition, some behaviors promote kids becoming overweight; sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading contributors to weight gain.
- To treat kids' obesity, you need to take a multifaceted approach. The first step is to talk to your children about your goals. It is critical to address the topic with sensitivity and caring; discuss the health benefits of maintaining an ideal weight and talk about the small things your whole family can do to promote a more healthy lifestyle. Educate your children so they can participate in making good choices about nutrition and exercise. Most importantly, preach moderation. You do not want to make the treatment seem punitive or to forbid any treats or activities; this would only make your kids feel deprived and unhappy.
- Adjust the family's diet. Look at the foods your family eats every day. Are you eating fast food several times per week? Is your cupboard filled with processed snack food? There are simple dietary changes you can make that will improve your nutrition, and encourage weight loss without making you or your kids feel deprived or hungry. First, add more servings of fruit and vegetables into your meals. These nutrient-packed foods are relatively low in calories, high in filling fiber and just about the best things you can eat. Then, start substituting whole grains for some of the processed carbohydrates in your diet; if your family is not used to whole grains, you can make the process gradual. If your kids have been drinking sugary sodas with meals, substitute milk or water instead. Replace fried foods with grilled or barbecued choices.
- Look at your eating habits. Do your children eat at the family table or in front of the television? Do you all rush through meals or enjoy leisurely dining? Encourage everyone in the family to take smaller bites, to chew thoroughly and to enjoy his food.
- Get going. Make sure your whole family is engaging in an active lifestyle. This does not have to mean hours at the gym or even in organized sports. You can start slowly by inviting the whole family to take regular nightly walks. Get your kids involved in ball games, biking, swimming and other fun activities they can do with you or their friends. Not a sports fan? Start dancing. An hour of dancing is great exercise and a wonderful social occasion as well.
- Of course if your child is severely obese, you should discuss options with your health professionals. There are more extreme options such as drug therapy or surgery, but these can have dangerous complications and should not be taken lightly.