Should I enroll my child in a weight-loss program?

If your efforts at home don’t help your child reach a healthy weight, and your child’s healthcare provider 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 should:

  • Be staffed with a variety of health professionals. The best programs may include registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, pediatricians, family physicians, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists or psychologists.
  • 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 healthcare provider. 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 overweight child.
  • Be adapted to the specific age and capabilities of the child. Programs for 4-year-olds are different from those for children 8 or 12 years old in terms of the responsibilities 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.

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