Obesity Childhood Treatment

Treatment for obesity in children is important in preventing the health complications common in overweight children. The increasing number of childhood obesity programs reflects the medical community’s concern with childhood obesity. Successful obesity treatment for children teaches new lifestyle skills to counteract habits that promote weight gain.

The Goals of Childhood Obesity Programs

The goals of childhood obesity programs differ slightly from adult obesity treatment objectives. Weight loss and the maintenance of weight loss are the goals of adult treatments.

The focus of childhood treatment for obesity, however, is weight maintenance rather than weight loss. If the child maintains a constant weight, normal growth will restore a proper height/weight ratio. Childhood obesity programs may be necessary for kids who are reaching the end of their growing years or for young children who are severely obese. In these cases, slow, regular weight loss is usually more effective than attempting to lose weight rapidly.

Nutrition for Kids

Children are a prime target for fast food marketing, and parents face an uphill battle limiting their children’s exposure to junk food. Proper nutrition for kids should include plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks while limiting junk food, sweetened drinks and fast food.

Promoting good nutrition for kids is the entire family’s responsibility. Nutritional changes should affect all family members — not just the obese child. Parents have a tremendous influence on nutrition for kids: Most children tend to adopt their parents’ eating habits. Here are a few tips for parents who are attempting to prevent obesity in children:

  • Avoid eating in front of the television or computer screen, which can cause overeating.
  • Avoid using food as a reward or comfort.
  • Eat at a table and use mealtimes as a time to talk and communicate.
  • Limit eating out to once or twice a month.
  • Parents — not kids — should decide which groceries to buy.

Exercise for Children

Nutrition for kids is only part of childhood obesity programs. Parents should also encourage enough exercise for children. As with nutrition, exercise for children works best if parents set a good example. A parent who insists on exercise for children while living a sedentary lifestyle sends a mixed message that can sabotage treatment for obesity. Here are some suggestions on how to promote exercise for children:

  • Exercise for kids doesn’t have to mean structured activities like sports — playing tag, throwing frisbees and walking the family dog all count.
  • Find exercises for children the whole family can enjoy.
  • Limit television and computer time to two hours a day.
  • Staying active as a family encourages children to exercise.
  • Vary exercise activities to keep children interested.

Medical Treatment for Obesity in Children

While weight loss medication or surgery may be prescribed as treatment for obesity in children, these treatments are usually a last resort. Medication carries the risk of serious side effects, and only provides results for as long as the child takes the drugs. Surgical treatment is invasive, irreversible and can cause lifelong complications. Doctors will recommend lifestyle changes, such as proper nutrition for kids and exercise for children, before such serious treatments for obesity in children are even considered.

Resources

Ebbeling, C.; Ludwig, D.