Childhood obesity experts offer these tips to parents of overweight children:
Don't put your child on a diet without checking with your pediatrician or family physician first. It's important that children be medically evaluated before embarking on any weight loss program.
If you place your overweight youngster on a diet, be sure to follow through. Studies suggest that losing a few pounds and then putting it back on again right away can be harmful. This yo-yo effect can even make it more difficult for children -- and adults -- to lose weight because the body can respond by acting as though it is being starved.
When you choose a weight loss program for your children, be sure that it allows a gradual weight loss -- one of just a half pound to a pound per week for older children, those six years and up. For youngsters less than six years, it may simply be best for them not to gain any more weight until they grow taller.
If you place one child on a diet, make sure that the whole family helps. That means getting rid of all the fattening food from the cupboards and the refrigerator.
Limit television watching, suggest obesity experts, to half an hour or less a day. The more children languish in front of the television, the fewer calories they burn.
Encourage youngsters to move around, play outdoors, in short, do anything to increase the number of calories they burn. Walking is one of the best exercises for heavy children. The best bet, say experts, is when a parent walks regularly with a child.