Stop! Never Put a Fat Kid on a Diet!

The dangers of childhood obesity are well-known. The statistics are grim. Some of the statistics can’t be supported with reliable research but that doesn’t stop these stats getting repeated in the media.

As a nation we worry about our children and want to help them to be healthy. The problem is many know that there are health dangers associated with childhood obesity but fewer understand the dangers of putting children on diets.

Some kids grow heavier faster than they grow taller.  It could be better for the child and healthier to help him maintain his weight until his height catches up than to put the child on a weight reduction food plan.

Some kids grow heavier faster than they grow taller. It’s better for the child and healthier to help him maintain his weight until his height catches up than to put the child on a weight reduction food plan.

If you’re concerned about your child’s weight you should know that diets are not the solution, but they can make the problem (and your child) bigger!

The problems with children on diets are many. 

  • Reducing calories can prevent children from getting adequate nutrients for health and growth.
  • Can create an adversarial relationship between parents and child.
  • Negatively affects self-esteem which may already be poor due to obesity and teasing and/or cruel treatment from other children.
  • Teaches children to be sneaky and hide food promoting “closet eating” that can be a problem that persists into adulthood.
  • Heavy handed interference in a child’s food choices and quantities can reduce a child’s ability to maintain any control when parents aren’t around.

Instead of forcing a diet on a child, embrace and encourage healthier habits for the whole family. Don’t make a point of making changes to help the heavy child, but rather reinforce the idea of establishing healthier habits for everybody’s well being!

  1. No negative comments about bodies. Refrain from making negative comments about your or anybody else’s body.
  2. Encourage positive self-image by helping your child/children discover their special talents and interests.
  3. No labeling food or eating habits! Stop talking about “junk food,” healthy food!”  No praise for eating habits “healthy eater,” and no “junk food junkie” labels!
  4. Do strive to feed your family a healthful diet made up of mostly nutrient-dense foods and a few treats.
  5. Build meals and snacks around vegetables and fruits. Whole grains and lean proteins are the side dishes.
  6. Involve kids in food shopping and preparation.
  7. Let family members serve themselves. If you want to encourage smaller servings cook less!
  8. It’s okay to leave food on the plate. No praise for “cleaning the plate!”
  9. Give every family member household chores.
  10. Find activities the whole family can enjoy together that gets everybody moving and having fun!

What about Fat Camps?

This time of year I get calls from parents asking if Weight Watchers has summer camp programs for kids. Thank goodness, the answer is “no!”

Fat Camps send all the wrong messages to children and although kids generally come home thinner, lasting results are disappointing. Once a child is returned to his environment he returns to old habits, often with a vengeance.

Sending kids to camp for their pleasure or to become more proficient in a skill or sport about which they are passionate is far better than a fat camp for helping kids be healthy and have fun!


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.