In an era of childhood obesity and increasing social pressure to stay thin and attractive, weight loss can be a confusing subject for an adolescent. First consult with your child's pediatrician to determine if weight loss is really necessary. Rather than focusing on the scale, focus on setting optimal nutrition and physical activity habits while encouraging a healthy body image.
Child and Teen BMI
It is important that you don't encourage weight loss without first consulting with your child's pediatrician. Because body fat changes with age and varies between boys and girls, there are no clinical weight recommendations for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using the Child and Teen BMI calculator as a means for determining a healthy weight percentile rather than ideal weight for an adolescent. A doctor can help you use this chart in order to determine the healthiest percentile for your 12-year-old boy or girl. If your child falls into 95th percentile or above, then he is considered to be overweight.
Puberty and Weight Gain
In some cases a 12-year-old may seem to be overweight because her frame size has increased. It is important to reassure her that the extra weight is not fat, but rather her individual body type. This can be a particularly difficult time for girls as they begin experience hormonal changes due to menstruation and puberty. If your child is not classified as overweight according to the Child and Teen BMI calculator, then be cautious about focusing inappropriately on weight. Healthychildren.org -- a website endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics -- warns that pestering children about losing weight may inadvertently cause them to develop a distorted body image and increase the risk for developing an eating disorder.
A 12-Year-Old's Nutrition
Healthychildren.org says that children ages 6 to 12 need good nutrition to keep growing normally. During this period they typically gain around four to seven pounds a year. Most girls experience increases in their growth rate between the ages of 10 and 12 years, while boys will begin their greatest growth spurts about two years later. If your pediatrician tells you that your child is growing and gaining weight normally, then there is no need to focus on the number on the scale. Instead, focus on setting good nutrition habits by encouraging a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. Conversely, if your child falls into the 95th percentile, then his pediatrician can best advise you on the steps to take for safe weight loss.
Fun Physical Activity
The CDC recommends that children and adolescents engage in 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Three of those days should include muscle and bone-density strengthening. Sports such as cycling, swimming, basketball, jogging, dancing and soccer are not only fun but, when performed regularly, will also keep your 12-year-old healthy. Healthychildren.org says that 12 percent of children in the pre-puberty years are overweight, but few of them are physically active. Exercise will not only burn calories, but also reduce appetite.