Worried about your child’s weight?

One of the things I’m most concerned about as a pediatrician is childhood obesity. In recent years, the pandemic has fueled an already worrying problem. I see children and teens in my practice whose parents ask, “Is my child overweight?” Sometimes parents don’t know what to do. Should I talk to my teen about it? Do I need to monitor and correct my eating habits more closely? Could this hurt their self-esteem? Or can I ignore the extra pounds and hope he or she “grows it out”?

My first piece of advice to parents is to take a moment and honestly assess their family’s lifestyle. How might that lifestyle affect your child’s weight? I encourage them to think about these questions:

  • Does your family eat healthy? Do we regularly eat nutritious foods, such as fruits and vegetables?
  • Does your family exercise regularly? Do we have a routine that includes walking, cycling, or other physical activity?
  • Does your family have nutritious food in the pantry for snacking? Do we stay away from buying processed foods and foods loaded with sugar?
  • Does your family opt for healthy options when dining out? Do we avoid fast food, even if it seems more convenient?
  • Does your family follow the same rules for all family members? As parents, are we modeling good eating habits for our children?

The answers to these questions can help your family focus on lasting change. In my years as a pediatrician, I can tell you that this kind of change can make a huge difference – maybe not in all children, but certainly in many. Some young people may need additional support and interventions. But exercise and diet are important. While food issues can be very complicated, eating healthy and exercising is a good start to helping your child or teen manage weight.

By adopting a healthy lifestyle as a family, you teach your children the skills necessary to maintain that lifestyle into adulthood. Consider it a long-term investment and one more way to keep them healthy and safe.

Do you have any questions? Talk to your pediatrician or learn more about our Healthy Active Living program at Advocate Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Julie Holland is the vice president of pediatric primary care at the Chicagoland Children’s Health Alliance, a partnership between Advocate Children’s Hospital, NorthShore University HealthSystem, and University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.

Take a free online quiz here to learn more about your healthy weight range.

Worried about your child’s weight?

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