Childhood Weight Issues & Obesity (2-12)

Childhood Weight Issues & Obesity  -  Ages 2 – 12

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When there is too much food & drink energy (calories), and not enough energy (calories) being used (exercise, movement, thinking) then the body turns them into fat and stores them.There are also other things that effect a child’s body weight, including; genetic make-up, inherited disorders and diseases, as well as emotional and spiritual factors.




Being obese – or even moderately overweight – puts an undue stress on the back, legs, and internal organs. This can eventually exacerbate many physical problems and can compromise health.  It increases the body’s resistance to insulin and susceptibility to infection, and puts one at a higher risk for developing coronary artery disease, diabetes, gallbladder disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers and other serious health problems that can result in premature death.




Research shows that about 75% of children who are overweight between the ages of 9-12, will grow into overweight adults.  So as parents you need to start teaching your childrenwhile they are young enough to adapt and develop a healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy way of eating.




Obese children suffer psychologically as well as physically, because our society tends to equate beauty, intelligence and even success with thinness. Children / peers can be very cruel and a child can suffer greatly.




There is no one simple, quick-fix solution to weight loss.  Self-discipline helps, but many adults don’t have this characteristic, let alone a young child.  A supportive family helps tremendously.  A nutrient-rich appetite-satisfying diet of whole foods helps.  Exercise helps. Natural medicines can help.  The key is a consistent approach to eating and activity – crash dieting and fad diets are NOT the answer. So therefore a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and diet, go hand-in-hand in maintaining a healthy, lean body.




Diet / Eating:




Junk foods, fast foods, processed and refined foods, contain large amounts of calories, but very few nutrients.  So a child eating these foods regularly, will gain excess weight, but will often be malnourished!  This is because they are missing all the essential nutrients they should be getting from fresh, whole foods.




A child, who establishes a pattern of; eating too much, too little activity, and obesity, early on, is at risk for continued weight problems throughout life, as well as for the health risks that accompany obesity.




Eating patterns learned at the family dining table during childhood are responsible for the most of the chubby babies, chunky toddlers, overweight school children and teens who suffer because of weight problems – as well as adults who continually battle the bulge. Families often just don’t sit together and eat meals, so it is also the eating patterns NOT LEARNED at the dining table, which are causing the problems.  Stresses and time restraints, as well as the lack of parental “effort” and control can also lead to these lifestyle & eating disorders.






Exercise burns up more calories then inactivity.  It also stimulates and increases a child’s metabolic rate – which continues to burn extra energy, even after the physical activity stops. Physical activity stimulates and regulates hormones in the body. It can also inhibit appetite, by reducing the ‘hunger-stimulating’ chemicals. Exercise also increases blood flow to all the organs of the body and can release feel good endorphins, making a happier child.








An essential part of your approach to your child’s weight concerns is a realistic, non-judgmental perspective.   Too much anxiety or control, or a too narrow view of the “right” body weight, can lead to anxiety, body-image disturbances, or even eating disorders for your child in later life.  This is a sensitive and complicated arena.  It deserves your thoughtful communication, consistency, and loving support. 




The whole family needs to become involved in the process, not just to loose weight, but to become healthy, then your child wont feel ‘different’, ‘left-out’ or ABNORMAL!





Refer to the “HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE PLAN” for further information:



o     To help flush toxins from the system and fill a stomach, encourage your child to drink 5-8 glasses of filtered, spring or distilled water every day. A good way for them to check if they are having enough, is by looking in the toilet after each urination.  The urine should be a very pale yellow if they are drinking sufficient water.  If not then they should be drinking more!  Another measurement often used is – approximately 30ml of water per kg of body weight.  This must increase if : your child is exercising a lot, it is a hot or windy day, your child is in an air-conditioned environment for several hours. Often people who don’t drink water, have lost the ability to recognise the body’s subtle thirst signals. When you are very thirsty it is already an indication that you are dehydrated and you will have lost optimal function of various organs – especially the brain – and may often experience headaches (“prune brain”)!


o     Don’t reward, treat or comfort with food! Use other means – outings, games played with mom & dad, toys, badges, star-charts, hugs & kisses etc. Food rewards at an early age leads to self rewarding with food as they get older, which in turn can lead to binging and overeating, crash diets, anorexia, bulimia etc.


o     Crash diets and skipping meals DO NOT WORK!  Have 3 healthy and filling meals a day with a healthy snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  Don’t eat supper too late;your child should be eating their evening meal at least 1-2 hours before bedtime.


o     Foster healthy eating habits.  Blood sugar levels will stabilise, cravings will be minimisedand energy levels will remain high.


o     Encourage your child to avoid foods with additives, preservatives and sugars. Don’t have these foods in the house to tempt anyone – adults and children alike! Teach them to be “brave” enough to say “no thanks”!  It is actually “cool” to be healthy, because how “cool” is it to have a snotty nose or a tummy-bug?


o     When buying and preparing foods, opt for the fresh, simple, whole foods – rather than the pre-prepared, processed, manufactured food products. Think: “As close to nature as possible!”


o     Learn to read food labels and teach your children to do the same.


o     Encourage a diet consisting mainly of vegetables, fruit, lean protein (fish, chicken and eggs – preferably organic) and whole grains,  Wheat may be a problem, so try some new grains like brown rice, buckwheat, millet, maize, quinoa, barley, rye, oats etc – unless gluten intolerance then leave out: wheat, barley, rye and oats.


o     Prepare a diet low in “bad/unhealthy” fats, and include the “good/healthy” fats.  Try not to fry or cook with butter and oil, as these turn to trans fatty acids (the bad guys!) which are detrimental to health and actually prevent the “good/healthy”  fats from doing their jobs. Don’t add margarine, mayonnaise, cream or salad dressings to foods. Dry-fry or steam-fry, bake/roast or steam and add a little “good” oil after the cooking process.


o     Exercise – as a family go for walks and do some physical activities together on the weekends, as well as encouraging your child to participate in school or private extra mural sports & activities.


o     Limit TV and computer time.


o     Make sure your child is getting sufficient sleep – 9-10 hours a night is needed for a healthy growing child! If you have a younger child then a short afternoon nap may also be beneficial.



In conclusion:


l      Lead by example! Your child is not going to be healthy if you aren’t! This has to be a family effort or “it aint gonna work!”

l      Make small changes at a time to nutritional intake & lifestyle. Introduce new healthier options slowly and as unobtrusively as possible.

l      Encourage, encourage, encourage!







Dietary Guidelines:




**NB** This will only work if you tackle this together as a family. Aim for the whole family to become healthier, rather than placing the emphasis only on losing weight.













For further advice & details – “The Healthier Lifestyle Plan



Please contact Adele Pelteret – Clinical Nutritionist & Integrative Lifestyle Consultant 021 5313589  or  082 3696606

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