Guidelines To Defeat
by Augusto Agostini, Ph. D. in Nutrition
1. When is a Child considered Obese ?
For Children ( ages 6 to 12 ) and Teenagers
( ages 13 to 19 ), we must define what Obesity
is and when do they reach that condition.
Firstly, we must understand that Obesity is
defined as “ an excessive accumulation of body
fat “. The total body weight is composed of
Lean Body Mass (that is, water, bones, collagen
and muscle) and Fat Mass.
Secondly, to be considered Obese, Children
must be : Boys…more than 25 % Fat, and
Girls…more than 32% Fat.
2.How do we accurately measure Body Fat ?
BMI (Body Mass Index), which is the proportion
of a person’s Weight to Height is, must
definitely, NOT an accurate measurement
of Body Fat. To simply confirm this, note that
an individual with a lot of muscle is erroneously
classified as “Obese” by BMI rules. Remember
that Muscle weighs twice as much as Fat, but
only occupies one-fifth (20%) of the body space.
A fat person floats when in the water, while
the skinny one sinks.
On the other hand, measuring a child’s Body Fat
must be done on a scale that utilizes the BIA
(Body Impedance Analysis) method, as this is
presently the most accurate form of obtaining
the correct information. Purchasing a Tanita
(brand) Body Composition Analyzer scale for
this purpose will be a wise decision.
3.What is the BIA (Body Impedance Analysis)
method of measuring Body Fat ?
This easy, body composition measurement
method has become very popular and widely
accepted by medical and fitness experts.
You step barefoot on the BIA scale, and
the equipment safely passes a low-level
electrical signal through your body.
Body fat percentage (and total fat mass)
is then calculated, based on the amount
of impedance (obstruction) as the current
flows from one point to another. The signal
passes much faster through LBM (Lean
Body Mass) than Fat, because muscle
contains 70 to 75 % of the body’s water
(while fat contains almost no water). This
BIA method is very consistent, especially
if you wait 3 hours after eating or exercise
before the measurement.
4.What are the Daily Calorie Requirements
for Children and Teenagers ?
A child or teen that do reasonable physical
activity (45 to 60 minutes per day) requires:
a) Boys/Girls (ages 6 to 12): 2,200 calories
b) Teen Girls (ages 13 to 19): 2,200 calories
c) Teen Boys (ages 13 to 19): 2,800 calories
5.Which are the dietary elements most
directly responsible for making a child/teen
gain those extra pounds of Fat ?
A daily overeating routine that indulges in
high-glycemic carbohydrates, found in
sugary and/or starchy foods, and the
consumption of excess protein above
his / her daily physical requirements,
most definitely will make your Child or
Teenager to increase in Body Fat.
6. On the number and size of Fat Cells
The body stores new Fat either by
increasing the number of fat cells
(hyperplasia), or by increasing the size
of existing fat cells (hypertrophy).
This is one of the most important
reasons to control Childhood Obesity,
since new fat cells are primarily formed
during childhood. Each year of adding
extra fat cells makes Adult Obesity
more difficult to fight.
7.For effective, healthy and permanent
weight management, understand that
Your Obese or Overweight Child or
Teen should reduce inches of body fat
rather than merely lose weight
It is important to understand the
difference between weight loss and fat loss.
When you lose weight, you mostly lose water
and muscle but just a small amount of fat.
This explains why people can lose weight
but still be overweight. When they resume
normal eating habits, the lost muscle tissue
is replaced with even more fat. If they only
lose weight, they run the risk of getting
even fatter than they were before they
dieted. This is known popularly as the
“ Yo-Yo Syndrome “.
Losing inches of fat, not weight loss is the
key indicator of successful weight
8. Our Children Are Not Exercising,
We Must Motivate Them To Do It !!
Contrary to what we see these days in the attitude
of many adults, who enthusiastically embrace exercise
as part of their daily life in order to enhance health,
Our Children are now, more than ever before in
history, choosing to live a sedentary life.
Statistics show that today’s children – between the
ages of 2 to 12 – watch about 5 hours of television
every day, and devote almost the rest of their non-
sleeping time to video games and computer chat.
Only one-third (1/3) of all elementary school children
participate in schools’ physical education (PE) programs
which have been largely reduced (and even eliminated
from many schools) since the beginning of the 90’ s.
These reductions in the amount of physical activity
in schools have resulted in an increase of children’s
bodies remaining inactive, fact which ultimately lowers
their Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – which, simply said,
means their bodies’ capability to convert food into
energy when resting. In other words, this inactivity
results in their decreasing the amount of calories
they are able to burn. Researchers have found that
children not engaged in a PE program at school, gained
one inch more around the waist and two pounds more
in weight, mostly of fat mass, than those who were
involved in a PE curriculum. Unfortunately, sedentary
children are easy prey of becoming overfat or obese.
The American Heart Association recommends that
children get a minimum of 30 minutes of vigorous
exercise at least 3 times a week. On the other hand,
Obesity restricts children’s motor performance
because it reduces their relative strength; as body fat
increases, the impulse for physical exertion decreases.
Even when diets of obese and non-obese children
show no substantial differences in the total
consumption of calories, the obese individual tends to
be much less active than acceptable weight-children,
and seldom perform physical activities on a par with
leaner children. Therefore, parents should be clearly
aware that exercise programs for their obese child
should be designated to increase caloric expenditure
rather than improve cardiovascular fitness.
9. If You Want A More Physically-Active Child …
Play Together With Him/Her !!
My advice to you as a concerned parent of an obese
child or teen is that you engage him/her in active
pastimes, which you could also share, like walking,
jogging, running, jumping trampoline, playing outside
the house, etc.
Also, make them active around the house by
assigning them chores to perform, like washing the
car, mowing the lawn, vacuuming, moping, etc.; if
they want to make a good tip or obtain a weekend
allowance, let them earn it - by actively helping with
activities around the house that require physical
exertion. Take them away – at least for a while –
from the computer or TV set.
On the other hand, be a role model, play
together with your child, as he’ll be much more
inclined and motivated to engage in physical
activities if you share in the fun. Enjoy activities
as a family… ride bike, roller blade, go horseback
riding, swim, jump rope, play basketball/soccer or
baseball/football/tennis, etc., but do it together !!
Teach them the basics of sports and play against
them, they’ll exercise more and what’s also great…
they’ll become closer (as friends) to you.
Sign your child up for other sports, such as
gymnastics, golf, track and field, martial arts,
aerobic dancing,etc., or invite him/her to join
a gym with you.
In terms of physical activity, also encourage your
child to walk or ride a bycicle to school(or to visit
friends). Do whatever is in your power to take them
away from the fattening, sedentary lifestyle !!
10.Dehydration Makes Excess Body Fat To Become
Denser And Much More Difficult To Burn.
Your child’s (or teen’s) body composition must be
comprised of a minimum 55% Water if female, and
a minimum 50% if male; otherwise, they’ll face great
difficulty in reducing the Excess Fat in their body.
Therefore, your child’s dietary regime should greatly
reduce -and if possible eliminate- the use of Caffeine
which is a major dehydrating factor to the human
body. Our children’s favorite caffeinated-beverages,
namely soft drinks and chocolate, should be
Of course, Exercise also directly affects hydration.
So you must make sure that your child drinks plenty
of water and/or non-caffeinated liquids after
exercising. Being ill or taking diuretics or other
medication can also affect a child’s hydration level.
And last but not least, beware of Constipation, which
is also a major contributor to the dehydration
process. In this case, dietary fibre (especially of the
insoluble type, like grain brans and flaxseed
powder, etc.), should be provided to your child on a
daily basis, accompanied, of course, with water.
If your female child is already menstruating, make
sure she drinks plenty of water and non-caffeinated
liquids, in order to avoid the additional dehydration
that occurs because of the loss of blood during that
time of the month.
It is of utmost importance for us to understand that
in order to get rid of Excess Fat, our body must first
have enough water to emulsify (liquefy) the fat, in
preparation for burning it by means of Oxygenation,
(via aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging,
running, swimming, bicycling, etc.).
Consequently, we must lead our children by example,
drinking plenty of Water (especially spring) throughout
our day - that’s between 64 to 80 fluid ounces of it,
instead of any other liquid.
11.Parents’ Role Modeling Makes The Big Difference !!
If you really want your kids to eat less junk
foods and fattening products, as well as getting
them to exercise more, I must repeatedly emphasize
the need for you to set the example. Change your
possible bad eating habits and jump aboard the
wagon of exercise !! Your kids will surely follow as
children model adult behavior.
12. And last but not least, Be Supportive of Your Child…
tell him/her is loved, accepted at any weight, and considered very special and important to you. The feelings of children about themselves are often based on how they perceive their parents’ feelings about them. I advice you to always listen to their concern about their weight…and instead of criticizing them,give them your full “active support”, understanding and encouragement. A good way of showing that you really care for their well-being is by your encouraging them to follow these
guidelines, as they’ll prove to be very effective and rewarding.
Dr. Augusto Agostini
Ph. D. in Nutrition