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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
Whether your child has genes causing weight gain or he is obese simply from eating too much unhealthful food, lifestyle changes are key factors in long-term weight loss. This includes dietary improvements and increased physical activity.
But weight loss is not always the goal when treating excessive weight in childhood. In some cases, especially with young children, a child can “grow into” his weight by maintaining his weight as he grows taller. In older teenagers with a higher body mass index (BMI), weight loss might become a treatment goal, as the rate of growth slows.
Whatever the case, it's important that your child's goals are realistic. This might include a modest reduction in portion sizes, small but consistent improvements in the types of foods he eats, and adopting a more active lifestyle.
Depending on your child's needs, a multi-specialty team consisting of a physician, a registered dietitian, a mental health professional and an exercise specialist may be helpful to develop a specific treatment plan that can include:
The low-Ggycemic diet
Traditionally, overweight individuals have trouble following low-fat and low-calorie diets, and those who do lose weight typically have a difficult time keeping it off long-term. This is usually because they feel deprived by the limited amounts and types of foods they can eat.
The Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program uses an approach known as a low-glycemic diet. This diet:
How do I follow a low-glycemic diet?
Following a low-glycemic diet is easier than it may sound. You don't have to memorize the glycemic index or count grams of carbohydrates in foods. Instead, you can:
Research has shown that the low-glycemic diet has many benefits, including:
However, to be as healthy as possible, children should eat a healthy diet and obtain daily physical activity.
Eating right is half the equation for optimal weight and fitness. Regular physical activity is the other half.
What is the best form of physical activity for an obese child?
If your child hasn't been active in the past, start slowly. Intense physical activity and competitive sports may, at first, be intimidating and even dangerous for an obese child who is not physically fit. But just 20 minutes of daily walking can get things moving in the right direction for a child who has been previously sedentary.
It's also an important move toward long-term weight management. To keep your child active, focus on making physical activity fun but also appropriate to her developmental level and ability. This can raise her self-confidence and motivate her to continue.
Experts suggest at least 60 minutes of moderate physical activity daily for most children. Running, bicycling, jumping rope, dancing, and playing basketball or soccer are good ways for them to be active.
Researchers continue to search for ways to treat obesity. At this point, prevention is the best way! This means eating a healthful diet based on vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole (instead of refined) grains, protein and healthy fats. Also, maintain an active lifestyle by aiming to getting an hour of physical activity a day.
You can also help your child to maintain a healthy weight by:
If my child has been diagnosed with an obesity-related condition such as type 2 diabetes, is it too late to make changes that will help him?
It's never too late to improve health. Many problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, elevated insulin, fatty liver and even type 2 diabetes can be reversed. With careful monitoring of changes in height and weight, many weight-related problems can be identified early enough to prevent the progression to more serious and chronic health problems.
Boston Children's offers three programs that provide medical, nutritional and behavioral supports:
All of these programs are family based to some extent; that is, they encourage an approach that includes all family members and not just the overweight child.
Boston Children's has initiated several community programs and partnerships to help further address overweight and obesity in local Boston communities:
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”