Body and Brain
Weight control is a family affair, say several childhood obesity experts.
They are responding to news that a Cleveland third-grader who weighs more than 200 pounds was taken from his family and placed into foster care. Social workers did this recently because they said the 8-year-old boy's mother wasn't doing enough about his weight.
"This is an unfortunate problem with an unfortunate outcome that probably could have been handled better by everybody," says Keith Ayoob, associate professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and a nutrition blogger for yourlife.usatoday.com.
Although he doesn't know the situation personally or what was done to solve the problem before the child was removed, he and other nutrition experts say their view is obesity of this magnitude is serious, and everyone has to keep the best interests of the child uppermost in mind.
Currently about a third of children are overweight or obese, government statistics show.
If the Cleveland boy had no metabolic or medical problems, then the child's weight is caused by a caloric imbalance, Ayoob says. "A child doesn't get to 200 pounds without some serious overeating. There have to be limits. The parents need to say no."
Every member of the family, starting with the parents, must take healthy eating and physical activity seriously and not treat them as optional, says Elizabeth Ward, a registered dietitian in Boston.
There are changes you can make at your next meal or snack to improve nutrition, she says. For example, pour down the drain every sugar-added drink, such as soda, juice drinks, sports drinks, and energy beverages and drink water or low-fat milk instead.
Atlanta pediatrician Jennifer Shu, editor of HealthyChildren.org for the American Academy of Pediatrics, says when it comes to having treats and snacks at home, "out of sight, out of mind can be a powerful approach."
On the other hand, depriving a child completely may backfire, she says. "There are ways to work in treats, but you don't want the bulk of their diet to be cookies, candy and soda."