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Weight-Loss Solutions for Children and Teens

Overweight children suffer. They suffer because they deal with ridicule and rejection from their peers. Often they can't participate in athletic activities or other school- and community-sponsored events. In a sense, they're victims of our fast-food, high-calorie, supersized world of eating and our inactive and leisurely lifestyle.

Even more important, overweight children are at risk for chronic diseases later in life, and, increasingly, even while they are still young. Incidences of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, once unheard of in the young, have dramatically increased as young people become more overweight and obese. Other possible health effects of childhood obesity and being overweight are metabolic syndrome, elevated triglycerides, hormonal imbalances, and skin disorders.

Quite often, weight issues for children are a family affair. In this chapter, we discuss causes of childhood weight gain and solutions you can start using today to help your child or teen lose weight and regain their health, self-esteem, and well-being.

Is Your Child Overweight?

You might not be able to tell by looking. The BMI charts designed for adults don't work for children and teens. You'll need to use different techniques to determine whether your child needs to lose weight and how much. Here are some tools you can use singly or in combination.

  • The standard weight charts at the doctor's office. If your child's weight is 120 percent or higher than normal for his or her age and height, he or she is considered obese. Use BMI charts for boys and girls as a reference.

  • Body fat percentage. Ask your health-care practitioner or at the fitness center whether they can measure your child's body fat percentage. This is an easy way to determine whether your child is overweight or obese.

    Boys: Obese if body fat is 25 percent or higher. Overweight if body fat is between 21-25 percent. Healthy range is between 9-15 percent.

    Girls: Obese if body fat is 32 percent or higher. Overweight if body fat is between 22-31 percent. Healthy range is between 14-21 percent.

  • Modified BMI Chart. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses a modified BMI chart that accounts for age and normal growth rates—one chart for boys and one for girls. But the BMI charts don't give accurate information for persons with high muscle mass, such as athletes, so be careful in using this tool. Use the BMI charts linked above.

You can use all or any of the tools listed here. We recommend that you use body fat percentage as a gauge for your child and for yourself. That way, you'll avoid the drudgery and fear of stepping on the scales. Plus, you'll have a more accurate measurement.

Set Goals

Establish body fat percentage goals for your child at 3, 6, and 9 months from now, and a year into the future. Measure the body fat only at these intervals. More frequent measuring won't accurately reflect the changes, as they happen slowly. An excellent goal would be to reduce body fat by one to two percentage points every three months. In other words, if your daughter now has a body fat percentage of 30 percent, at the end of one year, a body fat percentage of somewhere around 24-25 percent would represent great success. Then keep going until you've reached your ideal. Hurrying isn't important; health is.

Celebrate each percentage point lowered with a special treat—one that doesn't involve food. Decide ahead of time with your child what the treat will be. It can be a trip to the amusement park, a new soccer ball, new clothes, an overnight slumber party, or any number of other fun rewards.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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