Learn about Childhood/Adolescent Obesity

Treatment for Children and Adolescents

Treating obesity in children and adolescents differs from treatment in adults. Involving the family in a child’s weight management program is a key element to treatment. Treatment of pediatric obesity is not accomplished by just dieting. You need to address multiple aspects of the child and the family’s lifestyle, nutrition and physical activity patterns.

Prior to discussing any treatment plans, you first must determine the desired goals. If your child is affected by obesity, it is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized plan of care that includes realistic goals and action steps.

Similarly, if there is a lot of stress in the family at that time it is not ideal to try and tackle yet another major issue. In some situations, where there is significant depression or stress, it may be most appropriate for the child and the family to seek counseling to address these issues. In addition, if parents express little concern regarding their child being overweight, they are not ready to make the necessary changes.

It is important to talk with your physician about options for treating childhood obesity. The various treatments of obesity in children and adolescents include:

  • Dietary therapy
  • Physical activity
  • Behavior modification
  • Medical weight management

Dietary Therapy

When treating a child or adolescent affected by obesity, it is often recommended that they have a consultation with a dietitian that specializes in children’s needs. Dietitians can best help children understand healthy eating habits and how to implement them in their long-term diet.

Dietitians do not always recommend restricting caloric intake for children. Education on how to read food labels, cut back on portions, understand the food pyramid and eat smaller bites at a slower pace is generally the information given to change a child’s eating habits.

Physical Activity 

Another form of obesity treatment in children is increasing physical activity. Physical activity is an important long-term ingredient for children, as studies indicate that inactivity in childhood has been linked to a sedentary adult lifestyle.

Increasing physical activity can decrease, or at least slow the increase, in fatty tissues in children affected by obesity. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. Individualized programs are available and possible for those children or adolescents that are not able to meet minimum expectations.

Behavior Modification 

Lifestyles and behaviors are established at a young age. It is important for parents and children to remain educated and focused on making long-term healthy lifestyle choices.

There are several ways that children and adolescents can modify their behavior for healthier outcomes, such as:

  • Changing eating habits
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Becoming educated about the body and how to nourish it appropriately
  • Engaging in a support group or extracurricular activity
  • Setting realistic weight management goals

Medical Weight Management

Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a couple different medications for the treatment of obesity in adolescents. It is important to discuss all options with your child’s healthcare provider to develop the best treatment plan for your child.

Finding the right treatment for your child should be a family approach. As with adults, there’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for childhood obesity. It’s important for your child to be a part of the decision making plan and feel comfortable throughout the process.