Man playing with a group of young kids

Childhood Obesity

If your child is diagnosed with obesity, this can be a confusing and difficult time for you and your family. MaineHealth doctors can provide you with a treatment plan that helps with weight loss and promotes a healthy lifestyle.

Childhood obesity is not just a weight problem for your child. Carrying an excess amount of weight also can lead to serious health problems, such as diabetes. With childhood obesity, your child's activities may be limited because of extra weight. Obesity also may have negative effects on your child's confidence.

What is childhood obesity?

If your child has obesity, it means that they have an unhealthy amount of body fat. This means that your child weighs too much for what is considered healthy for their height. It is normal for kids to have growth spurts. Some children can be considered overweight for their age because they are tall. This doesn’t mean they are obese. That is why it is important to ask your doctor about whether your child’s weight is healthy for their height.    

What are the causes of childhood obesity?

There are many reasons that your child may become obese. Here are a few examples:

  • Not enough physical activity

  • Too many calories from food and drinks

  • Changes in the hormones that help digestion

  • Unhealthy eating habits

What are the risk factors?

  • Unhealthy eating habits at home

  • Family history of obesity

  • Hormone changes

  • Eating a lot of high calorie foods

  • Eating to cope with stress or boredom

  • Not getting enough exercise or daily movement

Growing Healthy Communities

The MaineHealth family of community doctors, clinics and hospitals work together, so our communities are the healthiest in America. From childhood vaccines to helping seniors stay active, MaineHealth gives people the tools and encouragement to live healthy lives.

Is Your Child's Weight Unhealthy?

If you think that your child's weight is unhealthy talk to your family doctor. Some symptoms that you might notice are the following:

  • A change in appearance; like new stretch marks or more fatty tissue

  • Shortness of breath when your child is being active

  • Sleep apnea: when your child momentarily stops breathing while they are asleep

  • Early puberty or irregular menstrual cycles in girls and late puberty in boys

  • Flat feet

  • Knock-knees: knees that turn inward

Determining Obesity in Children

Your child’s doctor will calculate BMI, body mass index, to determine whether your child is at a healthy weight for his or her height. Your provider will us growth charts to decide whether height and weight are healthy. 

Meeting with a Nutritionist Can Help

The treatments for obesity may be different for every child. Your child may be treated by his or her doctor or referred to a specialist, such as a nutritionist or therapist. Here are some of the common treatments you may see:

  • New diet strategies: based on tips given to you by your child’s doctor or nutritionist, you may need to start following a new diet plan

  • More physical activity: Your child may need to start spending more time doing physical activity

  • Counseling: Your child may need to see a therapist or psychologist if unhealthy eating habits are the result of an unhealthy emotional state

  • Medication:Treatment for hormonal changes or a genetic condition may vary.

Health Problems Related to Childhood Obesity

If your child’s obesity isn’t treated, something more serious could result. You might see any of these outcomes for your child:

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Asthma or breathing problems

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Metabolic syndrome