How Do I Know if My Child is Overweight?

Last Editorial Review: 9/11/2017

Ask the experts

We are going to be seeing my child's doctor for her well checkup soon. How should I approach my concern that she might be getting overweight?

Doctor's response

It is so important that you are in tune to the possibility that your child might be overweight, and you should state that very early in your discussion with your child's doctor. So many parents are embarrassed about this topic, but they should not be! And because it can be a challenging issue to attack if a problem does exist, I am afraid that a lot of doctors might tend to gloss over mild to moderate obesity. If you are straightforward about your concern, your doctor can get right to the issue and give it the time that it deserves.

Your doctor should calculate for your child what is called her "body mass index" (BMI), which is an easily calculated number based on her height and weight, and compare her BMI to other girls her exact age. Children in the upper 85th to 94th percentiles are labeled "at risk for obesity," and children over the 95th percentile are termed "obese." Children classified as at risk should be carefully evaluated. And even though the use of the BMI scale may miss some patients at risk or may classify some unusually muscular children as obese, you and your doctor should then use common sense and clinical judgment to avoid incorrect labeling.

Thereafter, other very important factors to consider include the family history and activity level of your child, and other health problems your child might be having. Then extra time should be taken to go over the complete dietary profile of your child and your family.

So, good for you for being concerned. I'll bet your child is also. There is no time like now to get after those concerns!

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Medically reviewed by Margaret A. Walsh, MD; Board Certification in Pediatrics


"Clinical evaluation of the obese child and adolescent"