Experts say weight problems among children is an increasing
trend in New Zealand. Photo Getty
Children as young as 9 are joining weight-loss programmes
in a trend industry experts say will grow as children lead more
The director of SureSlim New Zealand, Phil Pullin, knew of at
least one 9-year-old who had come to its Pukekohe clinic with
a weight problem.
Unlike weight-loss programmes Jenny Craig and Weight
Watchers, lifestyle programme SureSlim has plans for children
as young as 6, but most of its youngest members were in their
He said weight problems among children was an increasing
"In your suburban schools today parents are too busy to make
kids lunch, so they get money for a pie and chips. They don't
do any exercise for a whole raft of reasons like people are a
bit scared of letting their kids walk home.
"And then they go home and play on the computer. It's just a
whole lifestyle change."
Fight the Obesity Epidemic spokeswoman Dr Robyn Toomath said
figures showed almost 30 per cent of 2- to 14-year-olds had a
weight problem in 2007, with 8 per cent obese.
She said children joining weight-loss programmes was nothing
to do with fashion-conscious mothers concerned with their
"There's masses of data to show that it's much more the other
way, that individuals don't think they're overweight when
they are, and parents don't think their kids are overweight
when they are.
"It's much more that we don't appreciate the extent of
Dr Toomath said it did not surprise her young children were
being enrolled in weight-loss programmes but she was
skeptical about their success.
"The data shows adult weight reduction strategies which
involve dieting programmes are basically a waste of time and
money and my suspicion is they are similarly unhelpful for
She said instead of asking people to lose weight she
emphasised balanced nutrition including increased physical
activity and a healthy diet.
Weight Watchers programme and delivery director Martha
Lourey-Bird said weight loss was rarely recommended for
children under 7 and adult-based weight loss programmes were
not appropriate for most kids.
"It's more about guiding them towards increased physical
activity and lifestyle change rather than dietary
restrictions," she said.
"In cases where a child is in need of a weight-loss
programme, Weight Watchers requires children between the ages
of 10 and 16 to have a parent's signature and a doctor's
referral with a goal weight range before they can enrol in
Jenny Craig New Zealand and Australia managing director Amy
Smith said both nations faced alarming statistics about the
future health of the younger generation.
"But this isn't an issue weight-loss companies can solve
alone. It needs the engagement of government health
departments, health-care professionals including dietitians
and psychologists, schools, families and of course, parents."
- Natalie Akoorie of the NZ Herald