Childhood Obesity Articles

Experts Offer Seven Steps to Success to Parents of Overweight Kids

By Jane St. Clair

"Seven Steps to Success" is a free pamphlet for parents who want to help their children lose weight. The pamphlet's lead author is Dr. Daniel Kirschenbaum, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Medical School and an advisor to the Wellspring Weight Loss programs for children. Dr. Kirschenbaum's co-authors are some of the nation's top experts in the field of childhood obesity.

The article upon which the pamphlet is base originally appeared in the scholarly journal Obesity.
The seven steps are interventions for both parents and children. They include medical management, education, changing the environment, using support groups, cognitive therapy on the first level, cognitive therapy on the second level, and bariatric surgery. The final step - bariatric surgery - is included for use only if the other steps to do not result in success.
1. Medical Management means approaching your primary care physician for advice and help for your overweight children. Your doctor can spot early signs of obesity-related health problems such as diabetes or high cholesterol, and can provide appropriate care when necessary.
2. Education involves educating yourself and your children about food and nutrition, portion control, fat content of foods, and other topics. Your doctor may provide educational materials or you can find them at your local library or bookstore.
3. Changing the environment means making your home and neighborhood more conducive to weight loss. For example, to facilitate your child's getting more exercise, you can buy bicycles, move to an area where there are more sidewalks and parks, put exercise equipment in front of the television set, or join a gym. To facilitate healthy eating, you could get rid of all high-fat foods, buy more fresh fruits and vegetables, plan meals for the best nutrition, etc.
4. Support groups can include inexpensive opportunities that parents and children join together, such as Weight Watchers and Take Off Pounds Sensibly. If these do not produce results for you, then you could try a group run by a health professional.
5. A cognitive therapist can help your child change her behaviors, or you could try a short-term immersion therapy such as a few weeks at a summer camp for overweight children.
6. If your child needs further help, the sixth step is enrolling him in a long-term immersion program, such as a camp that lasts an entire summer or a boarding school for overweight children, particularly one that uses cognitive therapy.

7. The seventh step, bariatric surgery, is included only as a last resort.
Dr. Kirschenbaum and his colleagues wrote the "Seven Steps" in response to an article that appeared in the journal Pediatrics, which emphasized an educational approach to children's weight loss.
"An educational approach is very popular in the United States," said Dr. Kirschenbaum, "but it's very ineffective."  Reading about fresh fruits and vegetables, for example, is not as helpful as substituting them for french fries and fruit smoothies.
Another more recent article in Obesity Management found that using cognitive therapy interventions was more effective than using an educational approach in a study of 5,000 overweight adults.
To read the entire "Seven Steps" article, go to


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