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Weight-Loss Solutions for Children and Teens

Type 2 diabetes was formerly called “adult-onset diabetes.” That was true until more and more younger people were being diagnosed with it. To accommodate the children who had this form of diabetes, it was renamed.

If your child has Type 2 diabetes, it'll be harder for them to lose weight. The same is true if they have metabolic syndrome, which is the precursor to Type 2 diabetes. Elevated triglyceride levels, weight gain, elevated fasting blood sugar levels, and high blood pressure characterize metabolic syndrome. If you suspect your overweight child could have metabolic syndrome, consult with a doctor. You, your child, and your doctor working together can prevent it turning into full-blown diabetes.

When a person is on medication for Type 2 diabetes, it's harder to lose weight. This is true for insulin as well as oral medications. Your child and you need to meet with a CDE—certified diabetes educator—or a Registered Dietitian to learn how to eat to stabilize blood sugar levels and lose weight.


Being overweight or having a tendency to store excess body fat can be genetic. But not always. The medical conditions of celiac disease and diabetes have genetic roots.

If your children are also your biological children, you're already prepared for this possibility. But if your child is adopted, you often have no way to know. If you have suspicions that your child might be genetically disposed to health conditions that cause weight gain, don't wait. Consult with a doctor or specialist, get the necessary testing done, and find out the answers. Then you have the ability to assist your child.

Parents as the Problem

Don't be a parent who panics if a child is overweight. The situation can be solved. But not if you get in the way. Yes, this is tough talk, but we've seen it too often. For example:

  • A parent who compulsively puts her 9-year old daughter on a highly restrictive diet when she's only 10 pounds above normal weight. We suspect the mother fears social pressure more than the daughter.

  • A parent who suggests to her preteen that they embark on a formal diet program together, and attend meetings, and so on. Let her be a child. Too much pressure, too-high expectations. And the mother is in a sense making the daughter responsible for the mother's success at losing weight.

  • A parent who sends her 16-year-old daughter to a weight-loss coach and then refuses to let the daughter eat as recommended. This is craziness.

  • A parent who refuses to acknowledge that the child is overweight and who does nothing.

All of these are bad examples and usually end up making matters worse. To help you maneuver your way through the steps to helping your child, we've put together suggestions for what to do first, then next, and so on to create a positive and healthy solution.

The Eating Environment

Overweight children come from all kinds of families: large families, busy families, single-parent families, low-income families, and high-income families. So do children who are at their ideal size for their age and height. There's no set formula.


Try this breakfast experiment to break the cereal-on-the-run habit. Without asking anyone, fix a nice bowl of scrambled eggs and a plate of apples or oranges cut into pieces. Put them on the table and watch how readily your children gobble up this “new” breakfast. Cooking time: only 5-10 minutes.

However, you can create an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle for your child to live at his or her ideal size. Here are some suggestions:

  • Serve or provide a good breakfast with animal protein and fruit or vegetables. Most children like scrambled eggs, ham, or other simple-to-prepare breakfast proteins. Leftovers will work, too.

  • To control portion size, put food on plates at the stove and don't serve family style. Don't put bowls of food on the table and let everyone serve themselves.

  • Discourage going back for seconds.

  • Provide 5-10 servings of vegetables or fruits daily.

  • Don't stock up on processed foods, whether frozen or packaged.

  • Don't serve diet sodas and diet foods. Avoid sodas altogether. Just don't buy them or serve them infrequently.

  • Serve healthy snack foods and eliminate snacks such as potato chips, popcorn, corn ships, and pretzels from the pantry. Avoid buying the sweet-tasting snacks such as cookies, muffins, breads, cakes, and candy except on special occasions.

  • Eat dinner together as a family as often as you can.

  • Model good and healthy eating behavior as explained in other sections of this book.

  • Teach your child how to eat based on his or her physical food needs, such as eating 0-5.

  • Make regular exercise a part of family life. Go swimming, hiking, or biking. Play tennis, racquetball, basketball, or other sports together and make it fun.

  • Emphasize body fat percentage over weight.

  • Lobby your school board to remove sodas, candy bars, and salty snack foods from vending machines. Suggest they replace them with bottled water and fresh fruit.

An unexpected positive consequence of helping an overweight child develop healthier habits is that it will improve the health and well-being of everyone in your family.


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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