Your healthcare provider uses your child's height and weight to calculate body mass index (BMI). BMI most accurately shows whether your child is underweight, normal, or overweight. Your child's BMI is compared with that of thousands of children of the same age. This comparison will show what percentile of BMI your child is in. Overweight is greater than the 85% of BMI for your child's age. Obese is usually defined as greater than 95% of BMI for your child's age.
There are so many obese and overweight children that what looks "normal" may be overweight. Pediatric obesity is a health epidemic in the US. Roughly 1 out of 8 children in America are overweight or obese. Almost 1 out of 4 Black and Hispanic children are overweight. It is a very serious health problem.
Being obese puts your child at risk for serious health problems. These problems include type 2 diabetes, joint problems, obstructive sleep apnea (a severe snoring disease), severe asthma, hormone problems, liver disease, and high blood pressure.
Being obese can significantly reduce your child's lifespan. Obesity dramatically increases the chances of serious adult health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hypertension, and stroke.
The latest research shows that two-thirds of obese children age 10 or older will become obese adults. Obesity for many children starts by the time they are 3 years of age, and needs to be stopped at that time.
There are several factors that are thought to increase obesity.
You can't control everything your child eats or does, but you can influence health by promoting exercise and a healthier diet. Making healthy lifestyle changes as a family helps everyone. Here are some basic tips to start off with:
If your child's healthcare provider indicates that weight is a concern, your child may have blood tests for pre-diabetes (fasting insulin, fasting glucose), risk for heart disease (cholesterol and blood lipids), and obesity-related liver disease.
Emphasize non-processed, whole foods such as lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains like rice, quinoa, and oats.
Some quick meal ideas:
Make one or two changes at a time and let children adjust. Making big changes in diet or lifestyle is not easy. Sometimes just eliminating sweetened drinks and starting an exercise program will be enough to help your child lose weight.
These are positive changes to help your child to live a healthier life. You may meet with resistance from your child when you take away some of the foods they like. Let them know that you are doing this because you want them to live a long and healthy life.
You may want to talk with your healthcare provider about meeting with a nutritionist or dietician. These specialists can give you more specific meal planning ideas and diet advice.
Your healthcare provider may also refer you a specialty weight loss clinic if one is available at your hospital.