12.7 million affected. 17% of our nation’s children and adolescents. The numbers are alarming; childhood obesity continues to be a serious, complex health issue in the United States. We are seeing children with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Type 2 diabetes, typically only seen in adults over age 45, is becoming more common in young people. In addition to physical ailments, obese children can also experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem, and may be subject to bullying. How can parents of overweight or obese children create and maintain new healthy habits to help their child lose weight? Children are different than adults when it comes to safe weight loss and nutritional needs, and may also be suffering from feelings of low self-worth. For these reasons, traditional dieting or forcing your child to exercise may not be the best approach.First and foremost, talk with your child’s pediatrician to learn your child’s ideal weight for their height and age. Your pediatrician can also offer tips on making sure your child eats the right amount of calories to lose weight while still getting the vitamins and nutrients they need. Outside of the doctor’s office, make sure your whole family is on board with making healthy changes. This way your child won’t feel singled out, and since kids learn from their parents it’s important that you are a role model for them when it comes to eating healthy and getting enough exercise. Be sure to start small to keep things manageable: switch from juice and soda to water; start buying whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta instead of white; and start buying more fruits and vegetables for snacks instead of chips or cookies. Start taking short walks, hikes, or bike rides with your child, and gradually work up to 60 minutes a day. Remember that weight loss does not happen overnight, for adults or children. Keep building on the small changes you started with; if your child is having trouble losing weight after several months, schedule another visit with your pediatrician. There will be challenges and setbacks, but with time you can help your child lose weight and establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.