No child is an island

All children should have a medical evaluation by a doctor before starting weight loss therapy. The goals of therapy are to:

  • lose weight slowly (e.g., approximately 0.5 kg or 1 lb a month)
  • maintain normal childhood growth (e.g., growing taller in height) with no weight gain
  • change diet, exercise, and behaviour
  • involve family in counseling and support
  • keep the weight off once it is lost

Recent research has shown that diet, exercise, and behaviour modification are most effective when the whole family is involved. A weight loss program may be futile and actually harmful if the family is not ready to make changes, because unsuccessful efforts may lower a child's self-esteem even further.

Since family support is such an important part of therapy, several "parenting" principles should be followed in the management of eating and activity behaviours:

  • Find reasons to praise your child's behaviour.
  • Offer rewards for positive changes in behaviour. Never use food as a reward.
  • Establish daily family meal and snack times.
  • Determine what food is offered and when. Let your child decide whether to eat.
  • Offer only healthy options.
  • Remove temptations.
  • Be a role model.
  • Be consistent.

Drug therapy and surgery are sometimes used to treat obesity in adults. However, they are not routinely recommended for children and are generally not considered unless obesity is life-threatening.

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