Is my child overweight?

My doctor diagnosed my child as overweight, not what?

Is your child overweight? Who makes that determination? Is it you, your aunt, the neighbor kids or your family doctor? Many have loud opinions on weight but your family doctor is the source to seek. If it turns out your child is overweight and there is no medical condition causing the excess weight, your doctor will provide the correct information for making changes. The goal is for your child to be as healthy as possible, even on a weight reduction program.

Obesity is not a problem to be solved quickly; stay away from fad diets and quick weight loss programs says Michigan State University Extension. Your child is still growing and needs proper nutrition for his/her development. A place to start is by understanding the causes of obesity. Why? The more information you have about the causes, the more likely you will be able to make changes. Children gain weight for a variety of reasons; obesity can run in families, families may not be familiar with appropriate portion sizes or transportation can be an issue for acquiring the healthiest food available to families.

Knowing the health risks that can occur if your child is overweight or obese can also help motivate the changes that need to be made. These health risks are:

  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to stroke.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease can lead to heart attacks.
  • Fatty liver. Fatty liver can lead to liver damage and eventually cirrhosis of the liver.
  • Overweight and obesity worsens asthma.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Low self-esteem, teasing by others and poor self-image.

This is a very serious list of possible risks, but changes made when children are young equals lowered risks or the threat disappearing altogether. Eating healthy and getting enough activity everyday is the key to keeping children (and adults) healthy.

What can families do?

  • Cook more meals at home: You control what and how much goes on your child’s plate at home. You also can offer healthy second helpings if children are asking for more food.
  • Drink low-fat or skim milk, more water and less sugary drinks: Water is a necessary part of a healthy diet. Sugary drinks provide empty calories that only put on pounds, while low-fat or no-fat milk gives your child important nutrition for growing bodies.
  • Get enough sleep: Children who are overweight or obese may suffer from sleep apnea. If children aren’t getting a good night’s rest, their energy level for participating in physical activity tends to decrease.
  • Limit screen time: Children who sit in front of the TV, computer or gaming screen spend less time being physically active.
  • Be active: Physical activity is a necessary part of healthy living.
  • Learn about portion sizes: A serving and a portion are not always the same thing; many serving are far larger than an appropriate serving.

Many websites have a tremendous amount of information for families looking for healthy food choices, menu planning, recipes and activities to get up and moving. The Choose My Plate site from the United States Department of Agriculture features a way to track what you are eating and let you know where to make changes. The Kids Health site offers information not just for parents, but also young children and teens. Check out these sites, you’ll be amazed at the information available to families.

A diagnosis that your child is overweight or obese is a serious diagnosis. Making changes will take time and effort on the entire family’s part. Changes made now can help keep your child healthy for a lifetime.

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