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Helping the Overweight Child


How to know if your child is overweight

"Overweight" and "at risk of overweight" are terms sometimes used when referring to children who weigh more than expected. Doctors use the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts or the body mass index (BMI) to measure a child's weight in relation to his or her height. To find out your child's BMI, use this Interactive Tool: Is Your Child at a Healthy Weight?Click here to see an interactive tool.

If you have concerns that your child is overweight or at risk of becoming so, first ask your doctor to review your child's growth charts and medical history with you.

  • If your child's BMI has been high on the growth chart from birth, this may be his or her healthy size and growth rate. He or she may simply be bigger than other children of the same gender and age.
  • If your child's BMI pattern has suddenly jumped from a lower range to a higher range on the growth chart, your child may be at risk of becoming overweight. Your doctor will carefully track growth over time, watching for a change in the rate of weight gain.
  • If your family has a history of obesity, your child has a higher risk of becoming overweight.

Sometimes a child's BMI and weight can increase without a child being at risk of having too much body fat. For instance, before and during puberty it is normal for children to have a significant gain in weight before they begin to grow in height. Also, children who are very muscular (such as children who are very active in sports), may have a high BMI but have normal or even lower-than-normal amounts of body fat.

If your child's BMI and growth pattern suggest a weight problem, your doctor will give your child an exam that looks for health problems that can cause weight gain. This may include questions about eating and physical activity habits. Regular checkups for health problems will also be important over time.

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