Is your child overweight?

How does a parent know when his/her child is overweight or, worse yet, obese?

“Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass. Overweight refers to increased body weight in relation to height when compared to some standard of acceptable or desirable weight. In children and teens BMI is used to assess underweight, overweight and risk for overweight.”

BMI Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fatness. It is calculated by dividing a person’s height in kilogrammes by his/her height in metres squared.

Children who are obese or overweight are subjected to some of the same problems faced by adults who are obese and overweight. Obese children are likely to suffer from sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes a brief interruption of breathing during sleep.

Two charts are displayed showing the Body Mass Index for boys and girls separately, aged two years to 20 years.

BMI Chart

Children below the 5th percentile for their age are considered underweight.

“A child who has continuously been in the 85th, 90th percentile range is probably growing normally (homeostasis) for his or her body type. A child who has a large upward change in BMI percentile, even if not considered overweight should be evaluated to determine the cause.

Some experts describe children at or above the 95th percentile as overweight while other experts describe these children as obese. Similarly, children between the 85th and 94th percentile may be described as “at risk for overweight” or “at risk for obesity.”

Most immediate consequences of being overweight, as perceived by children, is social discrimination (being picked on and teased by other children, being seen as lazy) and low self-esteem.

Several factors are believed to be contributing to the epidemic of obesity that is being experienced these days. “No one factor can be blamed, but a combination of factors could add to an environment where the child is more likely to be obese.”

It is stated that some environmental factors are shown to contribute to childhood obesity. These are:

Increase in use of motorized transport.

Fall in opportunities for recreational physical activity.

Increased sedentary recreation.

?Prevention of Childhood Obesity should be of interest to parents.

Prevention of childhood obesity focuses on parent education. In infancy parents’ education should centre on promotion of breastfeeding; recognizing when the baby is full, and delaying the introduction of solid foods. In early childhood, education for parents includes proper nutrition, selection of low-fat snacks, good exercise/activity habits and monitoring of television viewing.