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What Can I Do If My Child Is Overweight?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Ruby Fernandez · Updated May 10, 2022

What Can I Do If My Child Is Overweight?

As a parent, you’re always worried about your child’s health. And one of the serious medical conditions that any child can develop is obesity. You might have many questions about this. Is my child overweight? Is there a child weight benchmark by gender? What can you do to help manage your child’s weight?

Let’s discuss the answers to these questions.

What Is Childhood Obesity? Is My Child Overweight?

Whether or not your child is considered obese or overweight depends on many factors. However, the most common factors are your child’s age, height, and body fat. If the body fat is too much relative to your child’s age and height, then they are considered overweight. If the body fat exceeds the overweight category, then your child has entered the obese category.

Doctors use the body mass index (BMI) to determine a person’s ideal weight range in relation to height. This formula has limitations since it does not include factors like frame size, bone structure, or age. Some children have body frames that are larger than the average for their ages. Some children have body fat that is normal for their stage of development. This is why it is important to coordinate with your child’s pediatrician.

Nevertheless, BMI is still widely used since it has different charts for girls and boys. A longitudinal analysis shows that in the US, both boys and girls have equal chances of being obese or overweight. However, among 6- to 11-year olds, boys have a slightly higher tendency of obesity.

If you want to conduct initial research, there are many online BMI calculators that you can use to determine your child’s measurements. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has this chart to guide you even further:

Category Percentile
Underweight >5th percentile
Normal or “healthy” weight 5th to 85th percentile
Overweight 85th to 95th percentile
Obese 95th percentile or greater

You can share the results with your child’s doctor, who will use other charts and perform other necessary tests to check if your child’s weight may be at risk of other health problems.

What Are the Causes of Weight Gain in Children?

There are many reasons for your child being overweight. Consider these possible factors:

  • Lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is one of the top causes of obesity in both children and adults. Does your child sit or lie in one place for hours on end, watching the TV or playing video games? Does your child not exercise at all? Then your child is not burning the calories from food, which leads to fat deposits developing in the body.
  • Diet. Not all high-calorie foods should be avoided. It’s the unhealthy food choices that add unnecessary weight to your child. These are the foods and drinks that are high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fat. Think French fries, burgers, candies, and refined grains. Unhealthy drinks include sugary ones like colas and even artificial (instant or powdered) fruit juices.
  • Family. Is your whole family overweight? Remember, your child will follow the adults. So if those who are older tend towards overeating or sedentary lifestyles then your child will likely follow suit.
  • Psychological. Even children can stress-eat. If they have problems like bullying or if they’re bored or if they have other emotional issues, then they could resort to food as a way to cope with whatever they are going through.
  • Socioeconomic. It’s a sad fact of life that those who are on the lower end of the socioeconomic range tend to buy convenience foods, which are generally unhealthy. They also have limited access to places to exercise.

Is My Child Overweight? What Can Happen to Them If They Are Obese?

A chubby child looks cute. But the extra pounds can lead to health problems like:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure

Further, studies state that obese children are more likely to become obese adults. Some of them can also develop:

  • asthma
  • sleep disorders like sleep apnea (breathing stops and starts during sleep)
  • fatty liver
  • bone fractures

As they grow older, overweight children face emotional and social issues such as bullying, low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression.

What Can You Do to Manage Your Child’s Weight?

Is my child overweight? If the answer is yes, you can employ several strategies to keep your child within the ideal weight range.

1. Be Healthy

As stated above, your child follows your lead. So, make the conscious decision to lead a more active lifestyle and to switch to a healthier, more balanced diet. Your child will likely emulate your example.

2. Do Things Together as a Family

Instead of surfing the net for several hours, why don’t you walk or jog with your child? You can start by just going around your block. Then you can slowly increase the length and pace of your exercises.

If this does not appeal to you, you can explore other fun physical activities you can do with your child like swimming, dancing, or biking. Encourage them to be active for at least 60 minutes each day. Of course, exercising for more than an hour is better.

The exercise does not have to be done within the hour if your child tires easily. You can do short bursts of activity each hour. The ultimate goal is for your child to move frequently and burn calories.

As to a diet switch, your child may be more amenable to eating fruits and vegetables instead of fast food if your whole family makes the switch.

3. Serve Healthy Food

Since we’re on the topic of fruits and vegetables, try to serve your child at least five portions of fruits and vegetables each day.

Slowly wean your child from high-calorie, high-fat, low-nutrition foods by providing alternatives that are just as delicious. For example, buy whole-grain cereals instead of sugary cereals, or give trail mix as snacks instead of potato chips, or treat them to yogurt-based ice cream instead of a full cream-based one.

As to the portions, if restaurants have kiddie meals, your home can have them too. Limit how much your child eats during meal times. You can use your judgment when it comes to how much you’ll be serving, or you can consult a dietitian or a food nutritionist.

4. Limit Screen Time

As you find ways to get your child to be more active, impose rules on TV watching, gaming, or internet surfing. Also, encourage them not to keep their electronic devices in their rooms so that they will not be tempted to play or surf. Make it a rule that their bedrooms at night should be for sleep and not for playing.’

5. Consult Your Doctor

If you’ve implemented a healthier change for your family but your child seems to still retain an unhealthy weight, then it’s time to again consult your pediatrician. Your child may have an underlying condition that needs to be checked.

Key Takeaways

“Is my child overweight?” you might ask. If they are, you have many options on how to manage your child’s weight. But as the saying goes, prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing your child from gaining unhealthy weight by providing healthy food and encouraging a healthy lifestyle will go a long way towards your child becoming fitter and more confident.

Learn more about Child Health here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Ruby Fernandez · Updated May 10, 2022

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