Childhood Obesity: Is 7 Too Young to Diet?

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A Strict Diet for a 7-Year-Old

Dr. Keith Ayoob, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, said that most cases of childhood obesity could be addressed without a full-blown diet.

"You don't let them go the way they are going because believe me, they are not going to grow into their weight," he said. "But you focus on health always, never appearance."

Ayoob's advice -- starting feeding them like kids rather than Sumo wrestlers and Olympic marathon runners. That means practicing sensible portion control, teaching lifelong healthy eating habits and ensuring they have an opportunity to burn off more calories than they eat through play and recreational activities.

As for Bea, Weiss said her daughter, now nine, has maintained a healthy weight but must remain vigilant on a daily basis.

"Unfortunately it will be a struggle for her always. I'm happy she's in a good place but it's probably something she will always have to actively manage for the rest of her life," Weiss said.

Tweet Chat on Childhood Obesity

One thing on which experts agree: Childhood obesity is a growing crisis. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts the percentage of American children aged 6–11 who are obese at nearly 18 percent -- a seven percent increase since 1980. More than one third of children and adolescents are now either overweight or obese.

To help raise awareness on the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, will host a one-hour tweet chat on Twitter today from 1-2 p.m. ET. Medical experts from the CDC, National Institute of Health, Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, and Dara-Lynn Weiss, author of The Heavy will join Besser on the chat to answer your questions and offer advice.

Want to participate? Here's how. Follow the conversation or jump in with comments and questions of your own.

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