Obesity is a high amount of body fat. It leads to a much higher body weight than is normal. This level of body fat can cause serious health issues.
Calories are consumed from food and drinks. They are necessary for physical activity and all basic body functions. A healthy weight is reached by balancing the number of calories you eat and the number of calories you use.
Weight gain occurs when the number of calories eaten is greater than the number of calories used. If this happens regularly, it will lead to obesity. Calorie imbalances happen most often with eating too much food and low levels of physical activity. Less often, it may be caused by a medical condition or medication.
Factors that may increase your child's risk of being obese include:
The main symptom of obesity is increased weight. The midsection is the most common area to increase in thickness. There will also be obvious areas of fat deposits all over the body.
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Excess weight increases the chance of a child having:
The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your doctor may use the body mass index (BMI). This is a tool to determine if a child's weight is ideal or outside of the desired range. BMI is based on height and weight. Normal values are based on a child's sex and age. In children, the BMI results are compared to the results of other children and teens in the same age range. This will account for growth and body changes as a child ages. BMI levels for anyone under age 20 are as follows:
Fat may need to be measured. This can be done with:
Your child's bodily fluid may be tested. This can be done with blood tests to look for other conditions that may increase body weight.
The doctor may also do other tests to check for complications of obesity. These may include checking your child's blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol levels.
Personal habits, lifestyle, and family culture can all influence obesity. This means that a mix of treatment approaches may be best. To help your child manage weight, encourage healthy behaviors in your child and your family:
Your doctor may recommend the following:
Your doctor may refer your child to a dietitian. A dietitian can help make a diet plan for your child. The plan may include a daily calorie goal, healthy food options, and tips to change your child’s diet.
Have your child follow basic healthy eating habits, such as:
Children rarely prepare their own foods. It is important that a parent participate in healthier eating habits. For example:
In more severe cases, your child may have to follow a meal plan.
Encourage your child to participate in physical activity. Sign older children up for sports or activities. Develop some family-based activities that everyone can enjoy.
General guidelines for your child include:
In more severe cases, your doctor may provide a specific activity plan.
Your child may struggle with weight loss or being obese. Some support options or actions include:
Some children who are obese may already have serious conditions due to weight. This may include problems with the heart or lungs, diabetes, or bone and joint problems. These conditions may require separate treatment.
Other children may have a hard time losing weight despite following guidelines. For these children, other options may be considered, such as:
To help reduce your child’s chance of being overweight or obese:
American Heart Association
Healthy Children.org—American Academy of Pediatrics
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Last reviewed March 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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