Richmond Practice - Children and weight

Children and weight
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I am concerned about my child's weight gain. What should I do?

Children are getting heavier these days and that is bad news for their health, especially as they get older. Children who are overweight are more likely to develop diabetes or heart disease in later life and are more likely be obese as adults. Even if your child is not overweight or obese, it is important that they eat healthily and are physically active.

The best thing that you can do is to help your child develop healthy eating habits and be more physically active. Children who see their family following a healthy lifestyle tend to learn by example and it will help them develop good habits. These habits become a normal part of everyday life. Most overweight children do not need to diet. They may not even need to lose weight. As they grow taller, aim to keep their weight at about the same level. That means they grow into their ideal weight as they get taller. It is not a good idea to count calories or severely restrict food for children.

All children should aim to be active for at least one hour every day. A variety of activity is important to help children develop strong bones, muscle strength and flexibility. Activity can be natural and spontaneous (in the playground, playing outside), or planned (walking, cycling to school) or school sports. Remember to praise your children when they take part or are active and do not criticise them if they are not as able as other children.

Always ask for a medical assessment for your child if they experience unexpected weight changes in either direction. Numerous causes are possible, depending on the child's age when it starts:

  • External influence, for example of peer group, school problems, frustration, bullying
  • Changes in family conditions, for example more or less activity
  • Any acute disease
  • Not eating enough or eating too much (disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia)
  • Chronic medical conditions like diabetes or hyperthyroidism.
Consult your doctor if you notice:

  • Changes in diet and eating habits
  • Changes in behaviour, depression, tendency to isolate, nervousness
  • Changes in activity, problems with exercise.
  • Recurring pains, vomiting, diarrhoea.
  • Poor motor and speech development in younger children
At Elsbeth's Doctors our consultant paediatrician offers competent advice and a wide range of tests for childhood obesity and other conditions that may cause concern.

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