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What Can I Do if My Child is Overweight?

fat boy eat fried chickenIf you’re concerned about your child’s weight there are a number of steps you can take to help them learn how to change their diet and increase their physical activity to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

A GP (*pediatrician) or practice nurse can give advice and support on helping your child achieve a healthy weight as they grow. Find out more in When your child is overweight.

Monitoring Your Child’s Weight with the Body Mass Index (BMI)

You can keep an eye on your whole family’s weight using the BMI healthy weight calculator. For children, the calculator assesses their weight status in relation to their height, age and sex. This means that the result – the child’s BMI centile – takes into account how a child is growing for their age and sex.

BMI is the best way to keep track of a child’s weight status and is a measure used by healthcare professionals such as GPs. Because so many children are now overweight or obese it’s not possible to tell if a child is a healthy weight just by looking at them or by comparing them to other children.

Helping Your Child Grow into a Healthy Weight

Children can achieve a healthy weight as they grow by:

  • Changing their diet
  • Increasing how much exercise or physical activity they do

Get Involved

There is also strong evidence to suggest that involving both parents and children, or whole families, is effective in reducing children’s BMI scores read more about getting active with your kids.

Read the answers to more questions about children’s health.

Further Information:

The Kurbo Program: Healthy Weight Mgmt for Kids and Teens

Kurbo logoThe growth of childhood obesity in the United States is staggering. We have now reached a point where 1 out of 3 kids are overweight or obese.

My name is Joanna Strober and my son was one of those kids struggling with weight. As a mother, concerned about my child’s health and well being, I set out on a mission to find help. I was searching for a tool, something that could easily fit into my son’s life and effectively help him manage his weight. However, after multiple doctor visits and endless hours on the Internet, I found nothing beyond “eat less and exercise more.”

I knew of some weight loss apps for adults, but, like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, they were all either unsafe or ineffective for children. Then I discovered the nationally recognized Stanford Pediatric Weight Control Program at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where I finally found the effective tools and practical guidance I was looking for. University based weight loss programs for kids are highly effective for local families – but what about children and families that do not live near a University based program? How can they receive help, guidance and support to control and manage their weight?

I wanted to find a way for the program’s proven weight management tools to reach more kids. Recognizing this gap in the marketplace, I came up with a plan: to adapt Stanford’s program to a scalable, mobile platform for kids and teens. Thus, the idea for Kurbo was born.

To carry out my plan, I needed an expert in the field of pediatric weight control, so I teamed up with Thea Runyan. Thea is the Lead Behavior Coach for the Stanford program and for over 12 years, has successfully helped over 600 families manage weight and lead healthier lifestyles. With her experience and dedication to taming the childhood obesity epidemic, Thea connected to my vision and recognized its potential to positively change the lives of kids, teens and their families.

teens and their smart phoneWith the help of $5.8 million in venture capital funding, we launched Kurbo Health. Kurbo Health licensed the program from Stanford University’s acclaimed pediatric weight control program and incorporated the programs’ tools and principles into a fun, engaging mobile app and weekly live-coaching sessions. It’s the first safe, effective and accessible mobile weight management program for kids, teens and their families.

The Kurbo Program teaches kids how to change their eating and exercise habits in order to reach and maintain a healthy weight. It is not about dieting, calorie counting or deprivation. These imply short-term results, create a negative stigma and hyper-focus around food and only magnify the issue at hand. Instead, Kurbo is about gradually gaining control of your health by making healthy lifestyle choices. Kids start seeing real signs of success after 3 to 4 weeks of the Kurbo Program.

A critical component of the Kurbo Program is the free, easy-to-use mobile app. Kids use the app to track their food and exercise using a version of the research-based Traffic Light system. Here’s how the system works: green light foods include fruits and veggies, yellow light foods include grains, lean protein and low fat dairy and red light foods are high in unhealthy fats, sugars and high calorie density foods. Once kids start tracking their red, yellow and green light foods, they become aware of their eating habits and start making healthier choices. The goal is to eat a well-balanced diet by increasing green light foods, moderating yellow light foods and minimizing red light foods over time. This is a safe way for kids to eat healthier and manage their weight. The app also includes videos and games that introduce concepts like food classification and portion size and provides instant feedback, reminders and rewards to keep users on track. Kurbo also encourages challenges, like having a red-free day or trying a totally new green light food, that keep kids engaged and motivated to achieve their goals.

The Kurbo Program provides weekly supportive coaching sessions with a trained Kurbo coach. Planning for the weekThese sessions can either be via text or email. Each week, your child’s Kurbo coach evaluates their progress by reviewing food and exercise choices, making actionable suggestions and working with your child to set reasonable goals for the next week. Coaches also teach your child how to plan ahead and budget their number of red light foods for the week. Say, for example, your family is going to a birthday party on a Friday. Your child’s Kurbo coach will help him or her use the app to rebudget reds, adding more reds on Friday (and fewer on other days of the week) to make sure he can eat pizza and cake and still meet his red-light goal for the week!

Not only is the Kurbo Program fun and affordable, it works. Kurbo’s beta test results showed that 88% of kids (ages 8 to 18) who met with Kurbo coaches for 10 weeks reduced their BMI (body mass index), lost an average of 5-10 pounds, exercised more frequently and felt healthier, happier and more confident.

While Kurbo kids gain tools to lead healthier lives, Kurbo parents get to take a break from being the “food police.” Kurbo reduces the tension and conflict around food and exercise that many parents face with their children. Coaches become a source of support, motivation and accountability. However, parents are still encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s Kurbo journey. Parents can participate in coaching sessions, receive a weekly email newsletter and have access to parent-focused experts who can answer their specific questions and concerns. Kurbo invites the whole family to use the Kurbo app, because kids are more successful when their families are tracking along with them. In fact, many parents lose weight too.

I created Kurbo Health as a solution for families, kids and teens who are struggling to lose weight. What started as a mission to help my son, has become a mission to help millions of kids and teens live healthier, lose weight, adopt better eating habits and feel really good about themselves.



Here is a Healthy Family Checklist to help manage your family’s healthy habits:

  • Do 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Incorporate exercise in a family routine like walking after dinner.
  • Limit TV, computer and video game time to 2 hours/per day
  • Eat dinner with your family at a regular time
  • Eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal (at least!)
  • Drink lots of water!
  • Limit Red light Foods like candy, chips, and crackers by buying less!
  • Switch to non-fat or 1% milk
  • Don’t drink your calories! Avoid sugary drinks like soda, sports drink and juice.
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. Don’t skip meals!
  • Encourage your kids and teens to get least 8-9 hours of sleep a night

One feature about Kurbo that generates some concern is the weight tracker: kids are encouraged to weigh themselves once a week and record it in the Kurbo app. Thea Runyan, Kurbo co-founder, provides her advice for creating a healthy mindset around “stepping on the scale:”

  • Don’t make the scale scary, it’s just a tool: It is important that parents don’t transfer their fears about the scale to their kids. At Kurbo weight measurement is simply another tool to assess progress, just like food and exercise tracking.
  • Encourage kids and teens to weigh themselves NO MORE than once a week: Research shows that weighting yourself regularly (not obsessively) is very important for managing a healthy lifestyle.
  • Success is not measured in pounds: At Kurbo, a child’s success is not defined by weight loss but instead, by learning and maintaining healthy behaviors and making smart choices about food and exercise.

Overweight Children: Advice For Parents

If your child is overweight, there’s lots you can do to help them become a healthy weight as they grow.

mother-and-daughter-unhealthy-snackingAs a parent, it can sometimes be difficult to tell that your child is overweight. A child may not look particularly heavy to be overweight. And, because more children are becoming heavier at a younger age, we’ve become used to seeing bigger children.

There’s a lot you can now do to help your child reach a healthy weight.

Research shows that children who achieve a healthy weight tend to be fitter, healthier, better able to learn, and more self-confident. They’re also less likely to have low self esteem and be bullied. And they’re much less likely to have health problems in later life.

As a parent, there’s lots you can do to help your child become a healthier weight. Getting them to be more active and eat well is important. Here’s lots of practical advice to help you.

Steps for success

Here are five key ways you can help your child maintain a healthy weight. You can read this whole page or click on the links below to go directly to the topic you want to know about:

1. Be a good role model

One of the best ways to instil good habits in your child is for you to be a good role model. Children learn by example. One of the most powerful ways to encourage your child to be active and eat well is to do so yourself.

Set a good example by going for a walk or bike ride instead of watching TV, or surfing the internet. Playing in the park or swimming with your children shows them that being active is fun, and it’s a great way for you all to spend time together.

2. Get active

Overweight children don’t need to do more exercise than slimmer children. Their extra body weight means they will naturally burn more calories for the same activity.

All children need about 60 minutes of physical activity a day for good health, but it doesn’t need to be all at once. Several short 10-minute or even 5-minute bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as good as an hour-long stretch.

For younger children, it can take the form of active play, such as ball games, chasing games like “it” and “tag”, riding a scooter, and using playground swings, climbing frames and see-saws.

For older children it could include riding a bike, skateboarding, walking to school, skipping, swimming, dancing and martial arts.

Walking or cycling short distances instead of using the car or bus is a great way to be active together as a family – and you’ll save money too.

3. Child-size portions

Try to avoid feeding your child over-sized portions.

There’s very little official guidance on precisely how much food children require so you’ll need to use your own judgement.

A good rule of thumb is to start meals with small servings and let your child ask for more if they are still hungry.

Try not to make your child finish everything on the plate or eat more than they want to. And avoid using adult-size plates for younger children as it encourages them to eat oversized portions.

It may also help if you encourage your child to eat slowly and have set mealtimes. You can use mealtimes as an opportunity to catch up on what’s happened during the day.

  • Explain to your child how to get the balance of their diet right using the eatwell plate. It shows how much they should eat from each food group.
  • Read more about what counts as a balanced diet.
  • Knowing the calorie content of foods can be useful. Here’s information to help you and your child understand calories
  • Get ideas for healthy packed lunches

4. Eat healthy meals

Children, just like adults, should aim to eat five or more portions of fruit and vegetables everyday. They’re a great source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Getting 5 A DAY shouldn’t be too difficult. Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards your child’s 5 A DAY including fresh, tinned, frozen and dried. Juices, smoothies, beans and pulses also count.

Discourage your child from having too many sugary or high-fat foods like sweets, cakes, biscuits, some sugary cereals and soft drinks. These foods and drinks tend to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

Aim for your child to get most of their calories from healthier foods such as fruit and vegetables, and starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice (preferably wholemeal). And switch sweet drinks for water.

5. Less screen time and more sleep!

Alongside the advice to get them moving more is the need to reduce the time they spend sitting or lying down in the day.

Help your children avoid sitting and lying around too much as this makes them more likely to put on weight.

Limit the time your child spends on inactive pastimes like watching TV, playing video games and playing on electronic devices.

There’s no hard and fast advice on how much is too much, but experts advise that children should watch no more than two hours of television each day. And remove all screens (including mobile phones) from their bedroom at night.

It also helps children stay trim if they sleep well. It’s been shown that children who don’t have the recommended amount of sleep are more likely to be overweight. The less children sleep, the greater the risk of them becoming obese. Lack of sleep can also affect their mood and behaviour.

If your child has a medical condition then the advice in this article may not be relevant and you should check first with their GP (pediatrician) or hospital doctor.

The Toughest Talk You’ll Ever Have with Your Child

For a few years – OK, maybe more than a few – I worried that my daughter Samantha was getting fat. After all, she was consistently in the 95th percentile for her weight, and I knew that a BMI (body mass index) between the 85th and 95th percentile meant a child was at risk for being too heavy.

It’s easy for women to get a little crazy about their weight, so it’s no wonder that we become a bit unhinged when it comes to our kids. Our pediatrician reassured me that she was fine because she’d been in the 95th percentile since she was a toddler and had a naturally muscular build. And today, at 14, her BMI is normal, so perhaps he was right.

Still, I couldn’t help but be concerned – especially when I saw her chomping down her fourth slice of pizza or noshing on candy with reckless abandon. Telling her I was worried about her weight felt cruel, a remark that could spawn body image issues and trigger an eating disorder. But staying silent seemed equally wrong, as if I were giving her permission to pack on the pounds.

Clearly, being appropriately concerned yet not overly neurotic was going to take some restraint. Turns out I’m not the only parent who feels uncomfortable discussing these matters. A recent survey found that most parents would prefer to talk about sex, drugs and alcohol than chat up their kids about weight.

So rather than get embroiled in a complicated conversation about BMI and calories, I chose to keep it simple and focus on one thing: good health. And rather than zero in on Samantha, I made these weighty discussions a family affair that included her thin-as-a-rail sister, Annie. We talked about trying to log an hour of exercise every day, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, and limiting – but not necessarily omitting – junk food from our diets. My friend did the same thing with her three boys.

Teaching my kids portion control was a little trickier. To rein in their temptation to overeat – the root of the nation’s weight problem, I think – I told them to try putting off until tomorrow the second helping you want today. “After all,” I said, borrowing a line from Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day.”

It was a simple lesson – one that my kids got right away. “Guess what, Mom?” Samantha said to me one day. “I didn’t take the second cupcake today because I remembered what you said about there always being another time.”

Inside I cheered. But will these lessons stick? Will they succumb to the freshman 15? Will they keep it off as adults? Only time will tell.

4 Family Friendly Workouts That Combine Fitness with Fun

For those of us busy with family, work and life, our workout routines are often the first to get the pink slip. But they shouldn’t be. In fact, physical activity is important for easing stress, boosting energy levels and warding off chronic diseases.

What’s the solution for fitting it all in? Make workout routines a family affair. You’ll get your heart pumping and your children will also learn healthy habits. In fact, a recent study from Oregon State University found that parents play a pivotal role in whether their kids become active or turn into couch potatoes. And with 17 percent of children currently overweight or obese, it’s especially important teach your little ones about fitness at an early age.

With that in mind, consider my four suggestions to combine workouts with family time. I guarantee you’ll have a blast while working up a sweat!

Family Workout Routine No. 1: Circuit Station

Stuck at home or trapped inside? Create a boot-camp style workout for the whole family: Set up five or six stations of body-weight exercises, such as jumping jacks, push-ups, lunges and squats. Assign each member of the family to a different station and rotate every 15 to 30 seconds.

For an extra push, run a lap around the yard (or house) after each circuit. Cycle through the stations five times. Don’t forget to keep a box of tissues to wipe away the sweat and a bottle of water on hand.

Family Workout Routine No. 2: At the Track

Take advantage of the track at your local middle or high school. Bring a soccer ball for your kids to play with in the center of the track as you walk or run. To ramp up the intensity, do intervals: Alternate between sprinting and walking laps. Are your kids too young to play on their own? Push them in a jogging stroller.

Family Workout Routine No. 3: Dance Party

Get your heart pumping with some fast-paced tunes! Put on your favorite workout music and start dancing with your kids. You’ll burn up to 330 calories an hour, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not sure how to get your groove going? Try a dance workout DVD or an interactive video game.

Family Workout Routine No. 4: At the Playground

Don’t stay on the sidelines — join in on the fun! Race your kids up and down the steps and slide, or bring a jump rope and let your kids count while you skip. Make sure to bring a pack of to-go tissues to clean off dirt and wipe up the sweat.

You can also turn the playground into your personal gym with these moves:

  • Walking lunges: Start in a standing position with your feet together. Step forward with your right leg. Bend both knees, lowering your hips to the ground. Your right knee should be directly over your ankle with your left knee facing the ground. Push up with your left foot and return back to the starting position. Repeat, leading with your left leg. For an extra challenge, carry one of your children as you lunge.
  • Monkey bar pull-ups: If you can’t quite do a full pull-up, just hang in there. Hold the pull-up position — with your chin above the bar — and count backward from 10. Repeat three times.
  • Decline push-ups: Place your toes on the edge of the slide and plant your palms on the ground. Bend your elbows and lower until your face is a few inches from the ground. Do two sets of 10.
  • Step-ups on a bench: Do 20 step-ups with your right leg, followed by 20 with your left leg.
  • Triceps dips: Begin sitting on a bench, with your hands next to or slightly beneath your hips. Lift up onto your hands, bringing your hips forward and off the bench. Bend your elbows (no more than 90 degrees) and lower your hips down. Push back up. Avoid locking your elbows and keep your shoulders down. Do three sets of 15.

Childhood Obesity: School Lunch Battle Won…How Goes the War?

In January of 2012, First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled new standards for school meals. These are the first major improvements to school lunch programs in more than fifteen years and are expected to improve the health and nutrition of nearly 32 million kids that participate in school meal programs every school day across the nation.

Under the new rules:

  • Schools will be required to double the servings of vegetable and fruits per meal.
  • All grains must be whole grains and only low-fat and fat-free milk will be served.
  • There will also be limits on the amount of trans fat and salt in each meal.
  • Additionally, for the first time, there will be age-based minimum and maximum calorie levels set per day.
  • A sample “Before / After Elementary School Lunch Menu” is available for download here

According to Sarah Fudin, Social Media and Outreach Coordinator for MAT@USC (the Master of Arts in Teaching program for the University of Southern California), “Childhood obesity has become parents’ number one health concern – ahead of smoking and drug abuse.

We have won a significant battle here!

On the other hand, US kids watch approximately 44.5 hours a week of television and are exposed to approximately 30,000 TV ads per year, half of which are for candy, snacks, sugary cereal and fast food. Can we truly be surprised that 1/3 of our children are either overweight or obese?

In an effort to support the nutritional standards for school meals and our teachers and students, MAT@USC has created an infographic, “Targeting Children with Treats” with statistics sharing lifestyle, consumption, and media activity relating to children.

Can we afford to relax after winning 1 battle? What do you think?

Brought to you by and MAT@USC.

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