Whether your child is at risk of becoming overweight or currently at a healthy weight, you can take proactive measures to get or keep things on the right track.

  • Schedule yearly well-child visits. Take your child to the doctor for well-child checkups at least once a year. During this visit, the doctor measures your child's height and weight and calculates his or her BMI. An increase in your child's BMI or in his or her percentile rank over one year is a possible sign that your child is at risk of becoming overweight.
  • Set a good example. Make sure you eat healthy foods and exercise regularly to maintain your weight. Then, invite your child to join you.
  • Avoid food-related power struggles with your child. You might unintentionally lay the groundwork for such battles by providing or withholding certain foods — sweets, for instance — as rewards or punishments. As a general rule, don't use food as a reward or punishment.
  • Emphasize the positive. Encourage a healthy lifestyle by highlighting the positive — the fun of playing outside or the variety of fresh fruit you can get year-round, for example. Emphasize the benefits of exercise apart from helping to manage weight. For example, it makes the heart, lungs and other muscles stronger. If you foster your child's natural inclination to run around, explore and eat only when hungry — not out of boredom — a healthy weight should take care of itself.
  • Be patient. Many overweight children grow into their extra pounds as they get taller. Realize, too, that an intense focus on your child's eating habits and weight can easily backfire, leading a child to overeat even more or possibly making him or her more prone to developing an eating disorder.
  • Be responsible about your own weight. Obesity often occurs in several family members. If you need to lose weight, doing so will motivate your child to do likewise. Don't expect your child to do something you are unwilling to do for yourself.
Feb. 15, 2014

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