How to Help Your Child Lose Weight

Expert medical advice for parents of overweight children

Boy holding strawberries
Ruth Black/Stocksy United

Do you know how to help your child to lose weight? Most parents don't. So if you feel overwhelmed, don't worry. Most good moms and dads don't know how to adjust the family diet, encourage healthy exercise, or motivate their kid to slim down. And you can't force your child to lose weight. Use this guide with tips from a pediatrician to help your son or daughter reach a healthy weight for a long and active life.

Why Parents Should Help Kids Lose Weight

Busy parents are under a great deal of stress. Moms and dads help their children manage academic challenges, deal with peer pressure, and learn basic organization skills. But parents of overweight children have an added burden. In the midst an already overloaded schedule, they have to help their overweight child lose weight and get healthy. And that task adds can add even more anxiety to a hectic home life.

If that overburdened scenario describes your family, you should know that you are not alone. The statistics about childhood obesity are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overweight children has doubled in the last 30 years, and among adolescents, the number has tripled.

And while you might be tempted to ignore the problem and hope it goes away, there are good reasons to rethink that decision. Overweight kids are at increased risk for a wide range of conditions including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and of course, adult obesity.

Dr. Abigail Allen, Director of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Clinic at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City works with children and sees the impact of childhood obesity every day:

“This issue hits close to home for me, since I see overweight children every day at my job who have musculoskeletal issues that will affect them for a lifetime — in part because of their weight issues affecting their growing bones. Most people think of heart problems, diabetes, etc., but being overweight really takes a toll on all areas of the body.”

To help parents manage, Dr. Allen offers a few strategies to help kids and families tackle the weight issue in their homes.

3 Ways to Help Your Child Lose Weight

Each of these strategies may not work for your family. But you can try one or two methods to see how your kids respond. Make adjustments as needed to help your child lose weight and maintain a healthy body.

  1. Lose the smartphone and tablet. With so many games and apps to choose from, children are skipping exercise. Physical activity can protect against obesity and can improve posture, sleep, concentration, and self-esteem. Get creative to help your kids move away from their baseball app on their tablet and move onto the baseball field in real life.
  2. Make exercise a family habit. One of the most important tips that Dr. Allen offers is for a family to exercise together. If one parent is obese there is a 50 percent chance that their child will also be obese, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Parents can set a good example for their children by living an active lifestyle. Aim for 20-30 minutes of physical activity each day.
  1. Adopt a healthy diet for the whole family. Obviously, it is great for children to put down the Xbox controller and participate in sports and activities, but it is a diet that makes the real difference. If you do not have a good diet, the children will continue to be overweight. Stay away from sugary sodas or "sports" drinks and control portions. It is important to see a nutritionist if needed. Since they are only children, the parents should be responsible for their diet. A healthy diet should be the way of life for the entire family. Children learn by example.

    Remember to take small steps and make changes gradually. A complete home overhaul is likely to be stressful and short-lived. If you're not quite ready for a full-scale program to help your child lose weight, make small changes to improve your family eating and exercise habits. You can even make simple design changes in your home to promote better health. Stay on track with help from your pediatrician and from weight loss coaches or school counselors.


    Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control. Accessed: February 17, 2016.

    Dr. Abigail Allen. Email interview. March 25, 2013.

    Continue Reading