• Weight Guidelines for Kids: Is Your Child Overweight?

    Image for weight guidelines children Overweight or obesity in children is a serious health concern. Overweight children are more likely to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. They also have to deal with social discrimination from their peers, which can lead to poor self-esteem and depression. What’s more, overweight kids have a higher chance of becoming overweight or obese adults.
    But what does this mean? How do you know if your child is overweight? The best way to find out is to schedule a visit with your child's pediatrician or family doctor, who can tell you if your child’s weight is in a healthy range. But if you are concerned that your child may be overweight, there are some other ways you can assess your child’s weight.

    Methods for Assessing Children’s Weight

    Clinical Growth Charts

    Your pediatrician or family doctor will likely measure your child’s height and weight to monitor growth patterns during regular appointments. Most doctors use clinical growth charts to make these determinations.
    The doctor will use your child’s height and weight to determine what “percentile” your child falls into according to an age- and gender-appropriate growth chart. A percentile will tell you how your child’s height and weight compare to a nationally representative group of children of the same age and gender. For example, if your child falls into the 70th percentile for weight, approximately 70% of children your child’s age and gender are at a lower weight than your child.
    Clinical growth charts can be accessed at the National Center for Health Statistics website.

    BMI-for-Age Growth Charts

    For children aged 2-20, BMI (body mass index)-for-age charts are a way to assess their weight in relation to their height. Since childrens’ and teens’ body fatness fluctuates as they grow, the cutoff points that adults use for BMI are not applicable to children. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed charts for assessing children’s BMI according to their age and gender. Like clinical growth charts, BMI-for-age charts indicate which percentile your child falls into.
    BMI-for-age growth charts can be accessed at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion website.

    Cutoff Points

    The CDC has established percentile cutoff points to help doctors and parents determine whether a child is of a healthy weight. Body composition (percentage of muscle and fat) can influence these numbers, but for most children, the following cutoff points apply accurately to children aged 2-20:
    Classification Cutoff Point of BMI for age
    Underweight Less than the 5th percentile
    Healthy weight 5th precentile-84th percentile
    Overweight 85th-94th percentile
    Obese 95th percentile or greater

    If Your Child Is Overweight

    If your child is overweight, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests you do the following:
    1. Be supportive. Make sure your child knows that you love and accept him at any weight. Listen to your child’s concerns about his weight and offer your support, acceptance, and encouragement.
    2. Encourage healthy eating habits. Make an effort to keep a variety of healthful foods—fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, and lean meats—on hand. Practice healthful eating habits such as eating breakfast everyday, eating fast food less often, and healthy snacking.
    3. Encourage daily physical activity. Help your child get some exercise everyday. When it’s safe and feasible, let him walk to school, the store, or friends' houses. It also helps to encourage physical education in school, participation in extracurricular sports teams or classes, and to be active as a family.
    4. Discourage inactive pastimes. Limit the time your child is allowed to watch TV, play video games, and surf the internet. Instead, help your child come up with fun alternatives to watching TV.
    5. Be a positive role model. Show your child that you lead a healthy lifestyle by eating healthful foods and being physically active. This way, your child will be more likely to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits that will last a lifetime.
    6. Seek help. Your doctor, local library, and local recreation or community center may offer information and programs that will help you manage your child’s weight. Seek help from these resources if you need it.

    RESOURCES

    Healthy WeightCenters for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/index.html

    Families Finding the Balance: A Parent Handbook http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/over%5Fchild.htm

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    AboutKidsHealth http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/

    Primary Care Pediatrics Ontario Association of Pediatricians http://www.utoronto.ca/kids

    References

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About BMI for children and teens. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/childrens%5Fbmi/about%5Fchildrens%5Fbmi.html. Updated September 13, 2011. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Use and interpretation of the CDC growth charts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/growthcharts/guide%5Fintro.htm. Updated November 2, 2007. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    Childhood obesity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 16, 2012. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    .Clinical growth charts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/clinical%5Fcharts.htm. Updated August 4, 2009. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents: United States, Trends 1963–1965 Through 2007-2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hestat/obesity%5Fchild%5F07%5F08/obesity%5Fchild%5F07%5F08.htm. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders. Helping your overweight child. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/nutrit/pubs/helpchld.htm. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    Obesity in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://ebscohost.com/dynamedUpdated May 16, 2012. Accessed June 1, 2012.

    Polsdorfer R. Obesity. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/healthLibrary/. Updated September 2011. Accessed June 1, 2012.

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