WellSpan Home

Health Library

Weight Management

Facts about obesity in adolescence

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 20% of children ages 6 to 11 in the U.S. are considered overweight and 18% of teens (ages 12 to 19) are overweight. Many more people are now overweight than 15 years ago. This increase is seen in both sexes and all ages. Overweight or obese adolescents are more likely to be overweight or obese adults.

What is obesity?

What causes teens to become overweight?

The following are some of the factors that may contribute to overweight adolescents:

  • Easy availability of food, especially high-calorie snack food

  • Parents' attitudes toward food

  • Eating more fast foods

  • Using food as a reward or punishment to change behaviors

  • Lack of exercise

  • TV watching and snacking

  • Not knowing how to eat healthy

  • Heredity (parents' and family members' weight)

Weight management

Girl standing on a scale

Treatment for obesity in children and adolescents involves changes in diet and more exercise. It is important for parents and the adolescent to be ready and willing to make the change. Generally, weight loss is not recommended for babies and young children who are still growing and developing. The goal of treatment for these children is to maintain their weight while they continue to grow taller. Losing weight may be recommended for obese adolescents who have completed their growth or weigh more than their healthy adult weight. The following are some of the general guidelines that may be followed in treating your adolescent.

For children older than 7 years of age

  • The goal is to stay at a baseline weight at first. Then add slow changes in eating and exercise to reach slow weight loss as recommended by your adolescent's healthcare provider.

  • At this age, a child or adolescent should follow adult guidelines, and limit fat intake.

  • Eat a variety of foods that are low in calories. Consider the following:

    • Your adolescent needs enough calories to maintain his or her energy level, but no more than he or she can burn off. This is called an energy balance.

      • If he or she takes in more calories than he or she burns, he or she gains weight.

      • If he or she takes in fewer calories than he or she burns, he or she loses weight.

      • If he or she balances the two, he or she maintains his or her weight.

    • Even when dieting, calories should not be cut back so much that your adolescent's energy needs are not met. The number of calories your adolescent needs depends mainly on age, gender, and activity level.

  • Eat fewer high-fat foods.

  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.

  • Eat fewer sweets, candy, cookies, chips, and sodas.

  • Change to skim milk and low-fat dairy products.

  • Refer to support groups.

What can I do as parent to help with the management of obesity?

  • Do not use food as a reward. Use other activities as a reward for good behavior.

  • Have family meal time and snack times.

  • Give only healthy choices for your adolescent to choose from. For example, stock the refrigerator with apples or yogurt, rather than cookies and chips.

  • Have the entire family become involved in a healthy eating plan, not just the adolescent who is overweight.

  • Encourage activities that promote exercise, such as riding a bike, walking, or skating.

  • Seek help from your pediatrician or a nutritionist who specializes in children and adolescents. He or she can help guide you through the management of obesity in your child in a safe and healthy way. 


Weight Management and Adolescents - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: Adler, Liora C., MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Last Review Date: 2016-02-21T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2016-03-26T00:00:00
Posting Date: 2008-11-30T00:00:00
Published Date: 2016-03-28T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.


Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.