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 Disability Information - Obesity


General Information

Education & Classroom Accommodations

Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites

National Resources & Websites

Articles Related to this Disability

Medical Information


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 General Information


  • In 1999, 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight. This prevalence has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past 2 decades.

  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

  • Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

  • The most immediate consequence of overweight as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.


  • Overweight in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.

  • 43% of adolescents watch more than 2 hours of television each day.

  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.


  • Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or adolescent's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.

  • A physician will also consider your child or adolescent's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.


  • Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem. Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

  • Focus on your child's health and positive qualities, not your child's weight.

  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

  • Realize that an appropriate goal for many overweight children is to maintain their current weight while growing normally in height.


  • Be physically active. It is recommended that Americans accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Even greater amounts of physical activity may be necessary for the prevention of weight gain, for weight loss, or for sustaining weight loss.

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

  • Provide a safe environment for your children and their friends to play actively; encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, and other fun activities.

  • Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than 2 hours a day.


  • Follow the Dietary Guidelines for healthy eating (

  • Guide your family's choices rather than dictate foods.

  • Encourage your child to eat when hungry and to eat slowly.

  • Eat meals together as a family as often as possible.

  • Carefully cut down on the amount of fat and calories in your family's diet.

  • Don't place your child on a restrictive diet.

  • Avoid the use of food as a reward.

  • Avoid withholding food as punishment.

  • Children should be encouraged to drink water and to limit intake of beverages with added sugars, such as soft drinks, fruit juice drinks, and sports drinks.

  • Plan for healthy snacks.

  • Stock the refrigerator with fat-free or low-fat milk, fresh fruit, and vegetables instead of soft drinks or snacks that are high in fat, calories, or added sugars and low in essential nutrients.

  • Aim to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

  • Discourage eating meals or snacks while watching TV.

  • Eating a healthy breakfast is a good way to start the day and may be important in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.


  • Many overweight children who are still growing will not need to lose weight, but can reduce their rate of weight gain so that they can "grow into" their weight.

  • Your child's diet should be safe and nutritious. It should include all of the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamins, minerals, and protein and contain the foods from the major Food Guide Pyramid groups. Any weight-loss diet should be low in calories (energy) only, not in essential nutrients.

  • Even with extremely overweight children, weight loss should be gradual.

  • Crash diets and diet pills can compromise growth and are not recommended by many health care professionals.

  • Weight lost during a diet is frequently regained unless children are motivated to change their eating habits and activity levels for a lifetime.

  • Weight control must be considered a lifelong effort.

  • Any weight management program for children should be supervised by a physician.

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 Education & Classroom Accommodations

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 Michigan Resources, Support Groups, Listservs & Websites

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 National Resources & Websites

State Programs:


The Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, 2002.
The U.S. Surgeon General calls upon the nation to work together in finding solutions to the problem of obesity and overweight. To read the report, visit the Surgeon General's Web site.


Surgeon General's Call to Action Fact Sheets:

Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults
The guidelines present an approach for assessing overweight and obesity and established principles of safe and effective weight loss. (This resource is hosted by the National Institutes of Health.)


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 Articles Related to this Disability


'Phantom Tumors': Painful Epidemic in Children Linked to Obesity - It's a Friday night, and Lauren Ashley just wants to hang out with friends. But instead, the 15-year-old high school freshman is at home buried in homework. At age 5, she was diagnosed with a rare condition that causes massive headaches that strike without warning. Since then, the Gahanna, Ohio, teen has missed so much school that she is forced to spend most weekends and every summer bent over her desk to keep up with classmates.


A Push for Phys Ed - A new study makes a strong case that physical education may be the single best strategy for curbing the nation's growing child obesity problem--at least among girls. In the first study to evaluate the effect of P.E. programs on kindergartners and first-graders, researchers found that increasing P.E. time by one hour per week could lead to a significant decline in body mass index, a measure of body fat, among girls.


Study: Mother's Obesity Doubles Child's Obesity Risk - Children born to obese women are more than twice as likely to be overweight by age 4, according to a new study that indicates prevention efforts should begin at -- or even before -- birth.


Parents Don't See Obesity in Kids: Heavy Children Seen as 'About Right' - A study released Friday by the American Diabetes Association found that most parents don't recognize obesity in their children. The study was one of two released at the association's 64th annual meeting in Orlando. Although that study looked at British children, at least one Michigan pediatrician said the same is true in the United States.


U.S. Rise in Blood Pressure Among Children Cited - The increase in the number of American children who have become overweight or obese in the past decade has been accompanied by a disturbing rise in their blood pressure levels, researchers report.


Bullying Surrounds Fat Teens, Study Finds - Overweight adolescents are more likely than normal-weight children to be victims and perpetrators of bullying, a study found, bolstering evidence that being fat endangers emotional as well as physical health.


IRS Rules Obesity a Disease: Weight Loss Can be Tax-Deductible - Although April’s income tax deadline can cause frustration, panic and expense for many people, recent IRS tax law changes offer some relief for a growing segment of the population – the now two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese. The Internal Revenue Service’s new rules lessen the tax burden on individuals who itemize their deductions and have large medical expenses, which now include treatment for obesity. With income tax forms due this month, are your nutrition services tax deductible?


Beyond Baby Fat: The Serious Problem of Childhood Obesity - Many overweight kids are bringing social and emotional problems -- as well as potential health problems -- to school with them. While research is clear that the problem can't be cured without parent and community support, there's plenty schools can do.


Behavior Problems Feed Childhood Obesity - Study finds overweight kids twice as likely to misbehave.


Prevention Can Start Young, Studies Suggest; but How? - As parents and doctors struggle with an epidemic of childhood obesity in America, Anne Youngquist worries about a subtler menace that may not threaten her three children for decades: heart disease.

The Pain of Obese Children - I don't want to die young! Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity contribute to a national epidemic of childhood obesity, exposing a rising number of kids to serious health risks.

IL Obesity surgery for kids emerges as drastic remedy

Read the San Francisco Chronicle's article "Summit to rouse schools about child obesity" - Emphasis will be on teaching good habits.


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 Medical Information

Diet soda? Fat chance. - A new study's shocking bottom line: If you habitually choose low-calorie over regular soft drinks, your risk of obesity balloons!


How’d I Get So Fat? - I am like the "before" picture in every one of those weight-loss ads. Tiny head, big body. For 10 years I have been battling the bulge and now, as I approach 50, I am officially obese. And as I try to zip up my pants, as I take my meds for high cholesterol, as I puff up my basement stairs with creaking knees, I keep asking myself, "How did this happen?"


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