Helping Your Child to Lose Weight
When you and your child's doctor have determined that your child needs
to lose weight, a serious attempt to treat the problem
should be undertaken. Here are some tips to get you
- Set goals. Just like with adult weight
loss, the goals in children should be attainable,
allowing for normal growth. The goals should
initially be small, so that the child doesn't become
discouraged or overwhelmed. A five to 10 pound
weight loss is a reasonable first goal -- about 1-4
pounds per month.
- Food diary. Work with your child to keep
a food diary. This should include not just the type
and quantity of food eaten, but where it was eaten,
and who else was present. The diary is not meant to
help calculate calories eaten. Rather, it is useful
in determining eating patterns and problem foods.
- Diet. Work with your child's doctor to
ensure that your child is receiving a balanced diet,
even if the calories consumed are decreased.
Consider working with a dietitian also.
- Physical activity. Exercise is an
essential component for any long-term weight loss.
Start small, to avoid discouraging the child and
work up to 20-30 minutes of moderate activity per
day in addition to what they get in school.
- Behavior modification. It's important to
help your child learn the skills to modify the
behaviors that may be causing the weight problem.
Consider sending your child to a nutritional
- Parental role. Help your child by
limiting the amount of fattening foods in the house,
eating all meals at the dinner table at designated
times and discouraging second helpings.
Should I Enroll My Child in a Weight-Loss Program?
If your efforts at home are unsuccessful in helping
your child reach a healthy weight and your doctor
determines that your child's health is at risk unless he
or she loses weight steadily, you may want to consider a
formal treatment program.
Look for the following characteristics when choosing
a weight-control program for your child. The program
- Be staffed with a variety of health
professionals. The best programs may include
registered dieticians, exercise physiologists,
pediatricians or family doctors, and psychiatrists
- Perform a medical evaluation of the child.
Before being enrolled in a program, your child's
weight, growth, and health should be reviewed by a
doctor. During enrollment, your child's weight,
height, growth and health should be monitored by a
health professional at regular intervals.
- Focus on the whole family, not just the
- Be adapted to the specific age and capabilities
of the child. Programs for 4-year-olds are different
from those developed for children 8 or 12 years of
age in terms of degree of responsibility of the
child and parents.
- Focus on behavioral changes. Teach the child how
to select a variety of foods in appropriate
portions. Encourage daily activity and limit
sedentary activity, such as watching TV.
- Include a maintenance program and other support
and referral resources to reinforce the new
behaviors and to deal with underlying issues that
contributed to the child becoming overweight.
Should I Consider Drug Therapy or Surgery for My
At this time, there are no weight loss drugs approved
for use in children. Surgical procedures are being used,
but their safety and effectiveness have not been widely
studied in children. Talk to your child's doctor to
determine if surgery for your child should be
Reviewed by the Department of Nutrition Therapy at The Cleveland Clinic.
Edited by Charlotte Grayson, MD
, WebMD, August 2004.
Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic
2000-2004 Last Editorial Review: 7/20/2005