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Weight problems in children

It is important to help your child to eat healthily, take exercise and aim to stay at a healthy weight. Overweight children can also be at risk later in life of health problems like heart disease and diabetes.

Normally we use Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure body fat based on height and weight to work out whether someone has a healthy weight. However, because children are constantly growing, we need to compare their BMI to that of other children who are the same age and sex, using child growth charts. So when we talk about children being overweight, their BMI is higher than most other children who are the same age and sex.

Children become overweight the same way adults do by regularly eating more calories than their body is using up as energy. These calories are then stored as fat, and there are lots of possible reasons why a child eats more calories than he or she uses up. These include:

  • Their metabolic rate - The rate at which the body burns up calories
  • Diet
  • How much exercise the child takes
  • How big an appetite the child has

Some parents think their child must be overweight because of their genes and a child’s genes can play a part in making them more likely to eat more calories than they use up.

Ways to help overweight children and teenagers lose weight include:

  • Improving the child’s diet. For example, eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting out sugary soft drinks, eating healthy breakfast, and not having high calorie snacks like biscuits, or crisps between meals.
  • Increasing physical activity. For example, taking part in sports, going on family walks, cycling to school or reducing the amount of television your child watches.
  • Changing unhealthy habits. This can include setting goals for healthy eating and activities, tackling hard-to-change habits, and help preventing your child have more self-confidence and feel better about themselves.

Key Information on:

Dr Jack Singer - London Paediatrician

The Portland HospitalBUPA Cromwell HospitalKing Edward VII's HospitalSevenoaks Medical Centre - A London Bridge HospitalParkside HospitalHarley Street Paediatric GroupHCA Healthcare UK at The Shard