Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(4):934

If my child is heavy now, will he or she always have a weight problem?

Not all heavy children grow up to have weight problems as adults. However, as children get older, their risk for staying overweight goes up. The risk is even higher if one or both parents also are overweight. It is important to catch weight problems early.

Could my child's weight problem be caused by hormones?

Most overweight children do not have a hormone imbalance. Children with a hormone imbalance may grow more slowly than other children. They often have symptoms such as tiredness, constipation, or dry skin. If your child has these symptoms, talk with your doctor.

How can I help my child lose weight?

The best way to lose weight is to avoid unhealthy foods and to exercise more. Talk to your doctor about the best ways for your child to lose weight. Be patient—it may take a long time to lose extra weight. Try not to limit how much food your child can eat, but offer food that is healthier. At the same time, do not focus too much on your child's weight. Make sure you praise your child for his or her strengths. Praise builds self-esteem.

How can I help my child to eat healthier foods?

  • Get the whole family involved in healthy eating. It will be good for everyone, and your child will not feel that he or she is being singled out.

  • Ask your doctor or a nutritionist to teach you how to read food labels. When you go to the grocery store, look at the food labels and try to buy foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar and fat.

  • If your child is older than two years and still drinks whole milk, you can change to fat-free skim milk. Also, get your child used to drinking water when he or she is thirsty.

  • Have your child eat all meals and snacks at the dinner table with the TV turned off.

How can I help my child exercise more?

  • Limit TV and video-game time.

  • If you have a pet, it can be your child's job to take it out for exercise every day.

  • Get the whole family to go for a walk or a bike ride.

  • Ask if your child would like to join a school or community sports team.

Can medicine help my child lose weight?

No diet medicines are safe for children.

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