Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Helping Your Child Who Is Overweight

Helping Your Child Who Is Overweight


How do you know if your child is overweight?

Doctors use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts or the body mass index (BMI) to measure a child's weight compared to their height.

If you are concerned that your child is—or could become—overweight, talk about this with your child's doctor. The doctor may:

  • Ask about how your child's diet and weight have changed over time.
  • Ask if there is a family history of health problems. These may include obesity, type 2 diabetes, or heart disease.
  • Give your child a physical exam. Your doctor will check your child's health and look for early signs of problems, such as type 2 diabetes. Your doctor also will look for emotional issues, such as depression, anxiety, or an eating disorder.
  • Test your child for causes of weight gain. These may include blood tests to check your child's blood sugar level and to look for thyroid problems.

What changes might your doctor recommend?

If your child is overweight, your doctor may recommend that you make changes in your family's eating and exercise habits. A child who weighs too much may develop serious health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Eating healthy foods and getting more exercise can help your child have better health. It can also give them more energy so that they can do better at school and enjoy more activities.

It may help to know that you don't have to make huge changes at once. Weight-loss diets aren't recommended for most children. Instead, start making small changes in eating habits and exercise as a family. Helping your child be more active can help them stay at a weight that is healthy for them.

If you have questions about how to make changes to your family's eating habits, ask your doctor about seeing a registered dietitian. A dietitian can help you and your child develop healthier eating habits.

What are some ways you can help your child?

  • Set goals that are within reach. Your doctor can help set a healthy weight goal for your child.
  • Avoid weight-loss diets. They can affect your child's growth in height.
  • Make healthy changes as a family. Try not to single out your child.
  • Ask your doctor about other health professionals who can help you and your child make healthy changes.
    • A dietitian can suggest new food ideas and help you and your child with healthy eating choices.
    • An exercise specialist can help you and your child find fun ways to be active.
    • A counselor or psychiatrist can help you and your child with any issues that may make it hard to focus on healthy choices. These may include depression, anxiety, stress, or family problems.
  • Try to talk about your child's health, activity level, and other healthy choices. Try not to talk about your weight or your child's weight. The way you talk about your own body or your child's body can really affect how your child feels about themself.
  • Help your child eat well.
    • Eat together as a family as much as possible. Offer the same food choices to the whole family.
    • Keep a regular meal and snack routine. Schedule snacks for when your child is most hungry, such as after school or exercise. This is important because if children skip a meal or snack, they may overeat at the next meal or make unhealthy food choices.
    • Share the responsibility. You decide when, where, and what the family eats. But your child chooses how much, whether, and what to eat from the options you provide. This can help prevent eating problems caused by power struggles.
    • Don't use food as a reward. You want your child to eat healthy food because it's healthy, not so they can have dessert.
    • Try to serve fruits and vegetables at every meal. For example, add some fruit to your child's morning cereal and put sliced vegetables in your child's lunch.
  • Help your child be more active.
    • Move more. Make physical activity a part of your family's daily life. Encourage your child to be active for at least 1 hour every day.
    • Try to make a plan with your child for how long they should use their phone, watch TV, play video games, or use their computer each day. Encourage outdoor play as often as possible if it's safe.

How can you help with social and emotional concerns?

Children who are overweight are at risk of having low self-esteem and depression.footnote 1 You can help your child have greater confidence, health, and self-esteem.

  • Avoid talking about your child's weight.

    Instead, talk in terms of your child's health, activity level, and other healthy lifestyle choices. How you talk about your child's body has a big impact on your child's self-image.

  • Be a good role model.

    Try to keep a healthy attitude about food and activity. Even if you struggle with how you feel about your own body, avoid talking in front of your child about "being fat" and "needing to diet." Work on making the same healthy lifestyle choices you'd like for your child. Talk with them about healthy choices.

  • Encourage activities that your child enjoys.

    Physical activity helps build physical and emotional confidence.footnote 2 Try different types of activities until you find one that your child likes.

  • Encourage social involvement.

    Community, school, and faith activities can help your child practice social skills and build relationships.

  • Help your child eat well.

    Provide healthy food choices. Consider seeing a registered dietitian for help, such as new food ideas.

  • Don't let any child tease another child about their weight.

    Talk to teachers and counselors, if you need to.




  1. Pont SJ, et al. (2017). Stigma experienced by children and adolescents with obesity. Pediatrics, 140(6): e20173034. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2017-3034. Accessed November 2, 2023.
  2. Hampl SE, et al. (2023). Clinical practice guideline for the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents with obesity. Pediatrics, 151(2): e2022060640. DOI: 10.1542/peds.2022-060640. Accessed March 15, 2023.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Type 2 Diabetes in Children Fitness: Getting and Staying Active Healthy Eating for Children Healthy Habits for Kids Obesity

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna


Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

The Cigna Group Information

About Cigna Healthcare Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers The Cigna Group Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap Cookie Settings


Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Georgia, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of South Carolina, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of Texas, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details