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What Teachers Should Know

About 1 in 3 U.S. kids and teens are considered overweight or obese. Genetics, lifestyle habits, or a combination of both may be involved.

Students who are obese are at risk for developing:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • bone and joint problems
  • breathing problems
  • sleep problems
  • depression
  • menstrual irregularities

Students who are obese may:

  • tire easily or avoid activities that require exertion
  • have breathing problems
  • miss class time due to doctor visits
  • feel self-conscious or embarrassed about their appearance
  • have issues with anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem
  • need to take medicine or eat special diets

Keep in mind that students who are overweight or obese are often teased by classmates and targeted by bullies.

What Teachers Can Do

Be supportive of students who are overweight. Focus on strengths and help build self-esteem by encouraging their interests.

Be a role model for healthy behaviors, especially related to nutrition and exercise. Consider integrating lessons on nutrition and exercise into your lesson plans.

Make healthy eating and physical activity a classroom affair. If you allow snacks in your classroom, make sure they're nutritious. Avoid giving treats to students as rewards for good behavior. Encourage students to be active during recess and gym class, and don't take away recess as punishment.

Encourage students to eat more fruit and vegetables, limit screen time, and be physically active every day. Physically active kids and teens also are more likely to be academically motivated, focused, and successful in school.

Medically reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: November 2019