Commercial weight-loss programs generally are not designed with children or adolescents in mind. However, some new programs do address children’s problems. As you evaluate a program, go through the following checklist:
Is it staffed with a variety of health professionals?
The best programs include one or more registered dietitians or qualified nutritionists, exercise physiologists, pediatricians or family physicians, and psychiatrists or psychologists.
This includes how to select healthful foods in appropriate portions or how to exercise more while limiting sedentary behavior.
Does it include a medical evaluation?
Before your child is enrolled in a program, her weight, growth, and general health should be reviewed by a pediatrician. In addition, a health professional should monitor the child’s weight, growth, and general health at regular times during the course of the program.
Does the program encompass the whole family and not just the overweight child?
The most effective programs are family based, focusing on food and activity environment, not just the affected child.
Is the program appropriate for your child’s age and abilities?
A program for 8 to 12-year-olds, for example, differs from programs for 13 to 18-year-olds in terms of the responsibilities placed on the child and parents.
Does the program include a maintenance program?
Support and referral resources are essential for reinforcing behavior and dealing with the underlying issues that led to becoming overweight.
Numerous camps offer weight-control programs for young people. One advantage of such places is that all the campers are overweight so there is less fear of being teased or stigmatized. But like other marketed weight-loss programs, they have a high relapse rate. If you pick a camp program, make sure that the family environment changes so the child does not return home from a camp to the same unhealthy set of problems.