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Overweight in children

Too fat already in childhood?

Parents can prevent obesity

Early in life, too many children suffer from overweight. This can have various causes. In most cases, there are health consequences. For parents, it is important to know how overweight develops and what can be done about it. Read here what is important for a healthy physical development of your child and how you can influence it.

Overweight can have many causes

There are many causes that can lead to childhood obesity, only rarely is it a disease. Too much fat and sugar in food and drinks play a role, and exercise behavior is also an important factor. In addition, family predisposition can contribute to gaining weight faster than other people. Often, however, the causes lie in unhealthy habits: sitting for too long instead of exercising outdoors, for example, snacking in front of the TV or computer, a preference for sweet and high-calorie drinks. The Corona pandemic, with closed daycare centers, schools and sports facilities, has done its bit to further increase the number of overweight children.

Health consequences

A major danger is that the excess weight developed in childhood can no longer be gotten rid of, or can only be gotten rid of with great difficulty. The health consequences can lead to diseases that affect the entire life: These include diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, the development of fatty liver and respiratory disorders. Pain in hip and knee joints, as well as deformities of the joints, are also often due to excessive weight. Overweight girls often reach puberty earlier, and overweight boys later. In addition, obesity can cause menstrual irregularities in girls and enlargement of the breasts in boys.

Mental health can also suffer

Prejudice, ridicule and teasing about figure and weight are not uncommon among children and young people. In our society, thin people are considered beautiful, attractive, fit and efficient. Fat people, on the other hand, are seen as sluggish, unathletic and less capable. This stigmatization is felt early on by children. It is not uncommon for them to be exposed, to experience exclusion, insults and bullying. This happens at school, in clubs, in their free time and increasingly on social media channels. As a result, mental health suffers: while frustration grows, self-confidence declines. Psychological problems and even depressive symptoms can be the result. Parents are particularly challenged in this situation to support their child empathetically and to look for solutions together.

What can parents do to prevent it?

Diets and too much pressure do not help to change bad habits in the long run. As a parent, you nevertheless have many adjusting screws to counteract your child's overweight and promote healthy development.

First of all, look at your eating habits:

  • What is on the table in your family?
  • What does your child eat (on the side)?
  • What does it drink?
  • Where and when there are sweets in between?
  • Where lurk the biggest sugar traps?

These tips will help prevent and reduce obesity:

  • Bring healthy foods and varied dishes to the table with plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Best fresh according to season from regional origin.
  • Avoid fat traps: Sweets and fast food shouldn remain the exception, as well as fish sticks and fries. White flour and sugary foods should be reduced. Snacks in between should consist of fruit or vegetables.
  • Finger away from soda, iced tea, juice and sweet milk drinks. There are plenty of fattening calories in these sugar bombs. Unsweetened tea, juice spritzers and mineral water are the better and healthier thirst quenchers.
  • .
  • Be a good role model. As parents, you lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle. Take time for meals, eat together and in peace at a lovingly set table. Undisturbed and without distractions also means that the cell phone and TV stay off during the meal.
  • Provide plenty of exercise every day: send your child out into the fresh air, to the playground, the football field, the forest or the swimming pool - depending on what your child enjoys. Any kind of exercise is good for boosting fat burning. At least 1 to 1.5 hours a day it should be.
  • .
  • Limit television and media consumption. During this time, your child does not move and may even still uncontrollably munchies in itself.

Where can we find help and advice?

Medical advice about the extent of overweight and any risks for secondary diseases and treatment programs can be obtained from your pediatrician and adolescent doctor's office.


If your child is being excluded and bullied at school, it is best to contact the appropriate teachers first and foremost. The Schulpsychologischer Dienst and school counseling centers also help.


If you have psychological problems, you can seek advice and help from child and adolescent psychologists. Also parent and family counseling centers can be first points of contact.

The info phone of the Federal Center for Health Education BZgA is also available to concerned parents around all questions about obesity in children. The consultants can be reached at 0221 892031 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. In the initial consultation, you will receive information, guidance and addresses of other contact points.

More informationLinks for further reading

Important information about obesity, the causes and dangers you can read on the topic portal of the Federal Center for Health Education BZgA.

The website of the Working Group on Obesity in Children and Adolescents provides medical information, gives book recommendations and holds a list of therapy facilities.


Children and adolescents medical parents info on the topic "What can we do at home" provides the German Society for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine e.V.



The brochure "Overweight in children and adolescents" of the BZgA is available for free download.

The topic sheet for parents on the stigma associated with obesity gives advice on how to empower your child in this situation.