Don’t send your overweight child to an adult-based weight loss group

Overweight kids are kids!

They are not overweight, tiny adults. It’s a mistake to treat them as though they were tiny, overweight adults. It’s a mistake, but that doesn’t stop parents and even some childhood obesity experts from treating them that way.


It’s not uncommon for parents of fat children to feel confused, overwhelmed and unsupported. It’s further not uncommon for these parents to feel judged as unworthy guardians of their children. There are even people who think obese kids should be removed from the care of their parents! WOW! That somebody even would consider such a thing is unimaginably cruel.

Fat kid = bad parents. Fat parents of fat kids =  bad, lazy, role model parents. Not True!


In the midst of all this childhood obesity hysteria parents are desperate to find a solution.

One solution is to enroll the child in an adult-based commercial weight loss plan that combines a food plan with the accountability of weekly meetings. Don’t even consider it. I’m not saying that there aren’t problems associated with childhood obesity. I’m saying that emotion and exaggerated health risks prevail over logic and facts. That’s the only way a parent could even consider doing that. It’s not likely to be a solution, but very likely to make the problem worse.

Although we'd like to think this is what happens when kids join an adult weight loss group and that they stay that way for life, the research doesn't support the theory.

Although we’d like to think this is what happens when kids join an adult weight loss group and that they stay that way for life, the research doesn’t support the theory.

There is room for many children in the U.S. to improve their eating and activity habits regardless of their body weight.

Unhealthy habits are not displayed exclusively by obese children. Some kids manage to escape the belly rolls, but make no mistake, they are no less at risk by their lifestyle than the kids who are wearing the “husky jeans.”

To get back to why we should not enroll kids in adult weight loss groups (such as Weight Watchers), I’ll start by repeating, “they are not adults.”

Their bodies are growing, they need more nutrients to grow.Their minds are growing and we must protect them from adult negativity about body weight in general. Let’s not teach them through exposure to adult’s negative beliefs that body weight reflects a person’s value and character.

It’s not healthy for kids to think that what they eat makes them good or bad children. It is not healthy to force kids to look at a number on a scale each week and allow it to judge them. “You gained weight so you’re a cheater,” or “You lost weight so you’re perfect… at least this week.”


Many of us who are constantly battling to keep our weight down know that the scale doesn’t always reflect how well we have followed our program. It’s frustrating for adults and even more so for children. Why subject them to that and possibly create a lifelong struggle with the scale that only makes matters worse?

Then there are the things the adults “share” in the meeting.

They blame their lack of progress on other people, on their “addiction” to certain foods, or their lack of “willpower.” These are all limiting beliefs and are only true because the people who believe such things act in ways that make them true. Kids don’t need to hear adult confessions about how “bad they are because they ate pizza,” or “had some ice cream and cake at a birthday party.” They don’t need to hear adults talk about how much their hate their bodies because they weigh too much.

Kids need to know that cake is a treat, not a snack to be eaten daily. That's not the same as teaching kids that "cake is a bad or addictive food."

Kids need to know that cake is a treat, not a snack to be eaten daily. That’s not the same as teaching kids that “cake is a bad or addictive food.”

If you’re still with me, and I say that because I know that some readers didn’t get much farther than the headline and already firmly disagree with me, you should know I’m not recommending that nothing be done. That’s a completely false notion. I have recommendations and the research shows these are the steps that help.


5 Simple Rules . Read more in fWeight Watchers Family Power by Karen Miller-Kovach.

The 5 Simple Rules . Read more in “Weight Watchers Family Power” by Karen Miller-Kovach.

If you have read this blog and have an overweight child and are not convinced that an adult weight loss group won’t help, then do what is most likely to make it work – don’t sign up the child, sign up yourself! Be a role model!

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.