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How does childhood obesity work?

Succeeding with Healthy Habits

Turning a blind eye to a child's excess weight and planning to address it later means that he or she will face a battle with the scale well into adulthood. Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of being an obese or overweight adult [source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services].

The best time to try to turn things around is right now. And you can find motivation by taking a look at statistics from the other side. Take one study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Harvard University. Researchers there showed that when overweight girls from a study group of 110,000 lost weight before growing up, they didn't just lose pounds -- they also lowered their chances of getting type 2 diabetes [source: National Institutes of Health].


The two best steps to take for getting to your goal are to improve your child's diet and increase physical activity. Your health care provider can give you detailed guidance, but below are a few diet and activity suggestions to get you started:

  • Watch portion sizes and limit access to foods high in sugar.
  • Add lots of fruits and vegetables to your child's diet.
  • Select whole-grain foods.
  • Target healthy protein sources through beans, fish, poultry or lean meat.
  • Create opportunities for a variety of exercises that are fun, such as dancing, swimming, hiking and jumping rope.
  • Limit sedentary activities, such as watching television or playing video games.
  • Make it a family affair; get everyone moving together.

[source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Looking for other ideas on nutrition and physical activity? Check out the United States Department of Agriculture's and First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program.

Addressing your child's health now will lead to a lifetime of sound choices. But you'll also be helping everyone in the family, and together, you can achieve your goal of a healthier life.

Related Articles

More Great Links


  • American Heart Association. "Students' physical fitness associated with academic achievement; organized physical activity linked to lower body fat in girls." (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Childhood Overweight and Obesity." March 31, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Tips for Parents - Ideas to Help Children Maintain a Healthy Weight." May 19, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • healthychildren (American Academy of Pediatrics). "Childhood Obesity: Common Misconceptions." August 13, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Let's Move. (Aug. 21, 2010)
  • Lisberg, Adam. Young New Yorkers sipping smarter than two years ago: 48% of locals drink sugary beverages each day." NY Daily News. August 3, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Childhood obesity." March 26, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Children's snacks: 10 tips for healthier snacking." June 15, 2009. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. "Metabolic Syndrome." January 2010. (Aug. 18, 2010).
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "We Can! Parent Tips: Healthier Eating While Saving Money." (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • National Institutes of Health. "NIH Study Finds That Overweight Girls Who Lose Weight Reduce Adult Diabetes Risk." May 27, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Neighmond, Patti. "Impact Of Childhood Obesity Goes Beyond Health." NPR. July 28, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Parker-Pope, Tara. "Hint of Hopes as Child Obesity Rate Hits Plateau." The New York Times. May 28, 2008. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Porter, Sheri. "Overcoming, Preventing Childhood Obesity Is a Family Affair." American Academy of Family Physicians. May 17, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "179 Schools Celebrated for Their Healthy Achievements." June 15, 2010. (Aug. 15, 2010)
  • United States Department of Agriculture. "" (Aug. 21, 2010)
  • U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. "Childhood Obesity." (Aug. 15, 2010)