Weight Loss Strategies for Overweight Kids

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If your child is overweight or obese, one of the best things you can do for them now and for the future is get them to a healthy weight.  But the right way to do it usually depends on how old they are.

There is no single right weight to be “healthy”.  The range depends on a lot of factors including gender, how tall they are and their age.  In most cases, the goal should not be to actually lose weight, but instead, work toward gaining weight more slowly as they get taller and older.

The best way to determine if your child needs to slim down is talk to your pediatrician.  He or she can work with you to come up with a safe and healthy plan together.  Additionally, expert advice may help you to focus on the right things to help your child reach that healthy weight regardless of their age.

Age 1 to 6

Goal: For kids 6 and under, the goals should be to stay at the same weight or gain weight at a slower rate.

What to do:  Remember, at this age, you are in charge of their routine.

Activity – Try to make sure they are getting at least 60 minutes of activity each day.  This can be a long play date at the park or multiple short burst throughout the day.  Jungle gyms, tag in the back yard, jumping around in the living room are all good options.

Meals and Snacks – Offer a variety of choices.  Cut back on the processed and fast foods.  Use fresh fruits and vegetables for snacks, swap out white bread, rice and pasta for whole-grain versions.  If your child is not a fan at first, don’t give up, over time they will start to accept the new items as normal.

Drinks – Avoid sugar drinks.  Swap out the soda, juice and sports drinks for water and skim or low-fat milk.

Encourage good eating habits – Try for 3 meals and 2 snacks each day.  Eating throughout the day helps even out the energy and reduces the likelihood of overeating at meal time.

Final thought – Makes small changes at a time.  Introducing a few new changes each week.  Talk to your child about making good choices.

Ages 7 to 10

Goal: For kids 7 to 10, the goals should be to stay at the same weight or gain weight at a slower rate.

What to do:  Kids at this age tend to have their own opinions, however, they still need help from their parents.  Now is the time to give your kids the tools they need to make the right choices for the rest of their lives.

Stock the kitchen – At this point kids can help themselves.  Keeping junk food in the house makes it more difficult for them to make good choices.  Simply declaring those treats are off limits can actually make them want them more.  Additionally, it may set you up for more conflict.

Screen time – When kids are sitting in front of the screen, they are not active.  When it becomes a habit, it can lead to weight gain. Prioritize productivity over entertainment.  At this age school, homework, at least 1 hour of physical activity, social contact and sleep which can total up to 12 hours a day or more. Screen time should be the last priority.

Get them in the kitchen – This is a great time to not only teach them healthy eating habits, but a chance to teach them life skills.  Get them involved in menu planning, shopping for the groceries and cooking the meal.  There is a good chance they will be more exited about eating wholesome food if they had a hand in planning and preparing.

Get the entire family on board – You don’t want to make your child feel singled out.  Discuss the importance of healthy choices with the whole family.  Remember, children will typically copy the habits of their parents.

Ages 11 to 17

Goal: Kids will typically need to stay at the same weight or gain at a slower rate.  After they have passed puberty, your child may be able to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week, but you need to speak with your pediatrician to make sure you are making the best decisions for your childs situation.

What you can do:  Preteens and teens are making decisions about their own health by this point but your guidance matters. It is important to work together and get their buy-in and even better if you can get the whole family onboard.

Make health the goal – Take the focus off of weight and put the emphasis on health and activity.

Keep family meal times – You child may have a busy schedule, but try to sit down and eat meals together as often as possible.  Studies have shown that kids that had family mealtime at least 3 times per week were 24% more likely to eat healthy foods.

Stock the kitchen – At this point kids can help themselves.  Keeping junk food in the house makes it more difficult for them to make good choices.  Simply declaring those treats are off limits can actually make them want them more.  Additionally, it may set you up for more conflict.

Offer support – If you child is talking about losing weight, understand their motivation.  Make sure they are doing it for the right reasons.  Make sure they understand that it is not about looks, it is about health, the energy to move around and think.

Activity – Try to make sure they are getting at least 60 minutes of activity each day.  This can be a long play date at the park or multiple short burst throughout the day.  By this age, they are probably not interested in the jungle gym or playing tag.  Look for activities that might interest them, sports, dance, martial arts, etc.  Remember, more time active is less screen time.

 

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