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Obesity—Children and Teens
(Obesity—Pediatric and Adolescent; Overweight—Children and Teens; Overweight—Pediatric and Adolescent; Pediatric and Adolescent Overweight; Children and Teens Overweight; Pediatric and Adolescent Obesity; Children and Teens Obesity)
- Sleep problems, such as poor sleeping habits or lack of sleep
- Large birth weight
- Lack of exercise
- High level of sedentary activities like watching TV, playing on the computer, or playing video games
- High consumption of fast food
- High consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks
- Overeating or binging—short periods when a very large amounts of food are eaten
- Stressful life events or change
- Family and peer problems
- Low self-esteem
- Depression and other emotional problems
- Family history
- Genetic factors
- Taking certain medications
- Having certain illnesses or conditions
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Complications of Untreated Obesity
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Bone and joint problems
- Sleep problems such as sleep apnea
- Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
- Problems with anesthesia during surgery
- Liver and gallbladder disease
- Unhealthy eating habits, including eating disorders
- Substance abuse problems
- Problems during adulthood—more likely to develop severe obesity, stroke, and heart disease as adults, early death in adulthood
- Underweight —BMI at or below the 5th percentile for the age group
- Desired weight —BMI between the 5th-84th percentiles for the age group
- Overweight —BMI between the 85th-94th percentiles for the age group
- Obese —BMI at or above the 95th percentile for the age group
- Tape measurements of the waist, hip, and abdomen—used to estimate the amount of fat deposited in the skin and inside the abdominal cavity
- Skinfold caliper—a small tool that measures the fat just beneath the skin
- Electrical measurements—a small electrical pulse can help measure the amount of fat tissue and non-fat tissue in the body
- Eat a diet low in saturated fat. Check food labels. Saturated fats are common in processed snacks and fried foods.
- Avoid trans fats. These are also common in snack foods like cookies, crackers, cakes, and donuts.
- Limit sugar-sweetened beverages. This includes sodas, sport drinks, and juices. Encourage your child to drink water.
- Switch to low- or non-fat dairy products.
- Limit refined carbohydrates. This includes sugars, white rice, and white bread.
- Eat a high-fiber diet. This includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Eat a diet that is low in sodium.
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Pay attention to how food is prepared. Foods cooked or seasoned with high amounts of fat can quickly increase calories.
- Limit fast food, take-out, and dining out.
- Give your child healthy lunches and snacks to take to school. This may keep your child from buying unhealthy options at school.
- Don’t use sweets as a reward for good behavior or test scores. Think of other, more active rewards.
- Set a good example. Prepare healthy meals at home. Children are strongly influenced by their parents behavior. Eat together as a family.
- When grocery shopping, choose healthy foods. Focus on unprocessed foods. Teach your child how to make good choices in the grocery store.
- Teach your child about proper portion sizes. Your child may be able to continue eating favorite foods, just in smaller portion sizes. Also, cook less food at mealtime and don't bring it all to the table.
- Focus on healthy foods your child can eat. Don’t eliminate all sweets and treats. Overdoing this may make your child want them more. Include occasional treats in proper amounts.
- Get at least 1 hour of physical activity every day.
- Limit time in front of a TV, game, or computer screen to 1-2 hours per day. If your child is under 2 years old, avoid screen time.
Counseling and Support
- A weight-loss program and active video gaming. Your child may also be referred to a therapist. This type of support may give your child insight into losing weight. Therapy that includes the whole family may also be helpful.
- Ask friends and family members to support your child. Time and motivation will keep your child on track.
- Make sure a healthy lifestyle is promoted at school or other organizations your child is involved with. Help your child to feel confident in making healthy choices even when the other children are not.
Medication may assist weight loss when added to lifestyle changes, but teens need to be closely monitored for side effects.
- Note: Over-the-counter and herbal products that are marketed as weight loss drugs may not be effective and some may be dangerous. Talk to the doctor before your child takes any of these.
- Bariatric surgery may be an option for some obese teens. This surgery will change the size of the stomach. This option is generally only considered if all other options have failed.
- Encourage your child to eat a healthy diet. It should be rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Choose lean meats, poultry, and fish.
- Serve reasonable portion sizes. Eat healthy meals together as a family.
- Limit sugar-sweetened drinks, even fruit juices. Encourage your child to drink water.
- Encourage your child to get at least 60 minutes of activity most days of the week. The activity should be moderate to vigorous intensity. Ask your doctor for specific guidelines if your child is younger that 2 years old.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours a day.
- Make sure your child is getting enough sleep.
- Set a good example for your children. Choose healthy food options. Be physically active.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
- Review Date: 03/2017
- Update Date: 05/05/2014