Obesity in children: what can you do about it?

Children with obesity. It happens more and more. A child who is overweight not only has an increased risk of health problems. Being overweight also leads to bullying in the classroom and even to limitations in later careers. There is simply a prejudice against being overweight. What should you do if your child is overweight? Does it have to be on a diet? The guidelines for obesity in children make a lot clear. For example, losing weight for the child also has consequences for the entire family. An obese child. That’s not just a kid who’s a little overweight. It concerns a degree of obesity that is unhealthy, disrupts social contacts and can greatly reduce the chance of a long life. Unfortunately, more and more children are not just too fat, but are morbidly overweight. What to do? The so-called CBO guideline makes a lot clear.

Multiple measures at the same time

Is it good to put your child on a diet? Yes and no. It is not a good idea to provide a seriously overweight child with a diet, no matter how well-intentioned. A diet must be responsible, professionally supervised and it must be part of a total package of measures. Firstly, the diet must be tailored to the child’s individual situation by a professional. In addition, the diet must contain sufficient healthy nutrients and must easily transition into a healthy and pleasant diet ‘for life’, which the child can also maintain. In addition to losing weight through a diet, more exercise is also very important. Finally, it can be useful to examine possible psychological causes of a disturbed eating pattern.

What should you take into account?

When a child is overweight and has an unhealthy eating pattern, he or she is often not the only one in the family. With a fancy word you then speak of comorbidity: the occurrence of a sick eating pattern in several people in a social environment, who reinforce each other’s behavior. The treatment of the overweight child is also adapted to the child’s health condition. If health is in acute danger, a more powerful and rapid intervention in diet and exercise will be necessary. This is estimated on the basis of the so-called BMI or Body Mass Index, an indicator of being overweight that is also used for adults. But the child as a person is also taken into account. What about her or his motivation, capacity? And what inner resources do the people with whom the child lives have when it comes to coaching, motivation and help? In addition, it is also assessed how any attempts to lose weight have gone in the past.

Coach your child!

If a child goes on a diet, it is important that there is, as it were, a very strong coaching team around the child. This is often a professional dietician and one or more family members. It is important that the child is constantly helped to see weight loss as a gain, not a loss. After all, losing weight will lead to easier exercise, feeling better now and in the future, and social relief. For example, no longer being reprimanded in the school yard, or being able to participate more easily in sports or games.

Not just a diet

According to the latest insights, a diet alone is not enough. It is a total package, which takes into account the entire functioning and experience of the child. An optimal situation must be achieved psychologically, socially and physically in order to lose weight effectively.

No pills

The CBO Obesity Guideline for Children has as a rule of thumb: no pills unless strictly necessary. Losing weight without pills and powders is by far preferable.


The whole family involved

The family around a child on a diet is involved in several ways. First of all, helpful coaches, as mentioned. But also based on the idea that an overweight child often grows up in an environment with people who themselves have a problem with healthy food. In recent years, there has been a growing understanding in medical science that you can still tell someone else that they should eat healthy, and above all should not live like you do if you eat unhealthy – but that what the child sees around him or her Despite all good advice, it is also the thing that encourages the child to behave in a certain way. In other words: many times it would be better to give up those daily fries than just continue eating and tell your child that it absolutely shouldn’t be like that and that your knees hurt so much when you want to climb the stairs!

Child on a diet: guidance costs little or nothing

Fortunately, dietary assistance from the dietician or nutritionist is included in the basic package. So in principle it costs you as a parent nothing: approximately seven to eleven sessions are reimbursed. Only if you (also) want to diet, you have to take into account the mandatory personal contribution, which covers roughly the first few hundred euros of all healthcare costs. For children under 18, no personal contribution applies according to current legislation. Even a referral from the GP is no longer necessary. However, an intake interview will then follow at the dietician practice of your choice.


The Dutch Standard for Healthy Exercise

The standard for healthy exercise is to exercise moderately intensively for half an hour every day. If someone needs to lose weight, it is better to exercise for a full hour every day. The Health Council has different advice for younger people up to the age of 18: one full hour of moderately intensive exercise. Then you are talking about skateboarding, aerobics, running or other activities that put your body to work. However, any weight loss program must be tailored to the child and lead to a lifestyle that can be maintained. If a child starts from zero minutes of exercise, it is important to work towards a better movement pattern very gradually, under the guidance of the professional. Naturally, it is necessary to reduce sedentary activities. This involves watching TV, sitting in front of the computer and playing games. It is precisely these sedentary activities that are increasing rapidly and are one of the causes of the youth becoming fatter.

Behavioral therapy

One of the most common current methods to help a child lose weight from a healthy psychological background is behavioral therapy. The child is taught to use new skills in her or his diet. This obviously involves behavioral therapy with a professional who is involved in the child’s treatment plan. It remains to be seen that the daily environment, i.e. parents and family members, also play an important role in strengthening the child’s motivation and helping to persevere on this difficult but rewarding path.

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