Dr. Patel
Obesity is a serious medical condition that affects children and adolescents. Children who are obese are well above the normal weight for their age and height. Dr. Green, what else should parents know about childhood obesity?

Dr. Green
Well, Dr. Patel, people sometimes use the terms "obese" and "overweight" interchangeably. They actually mean slightly different things, but both are diagnosed by body mass index, or BMI. Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex.

Childhood obesity is especially troubling because it often marks the beginning of serious health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Obese children often become obese adults.

Many factors can increase a child's risk of becoming obese, including:

  • Diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Family history of obesity
  • Psychological factors, such as boredom or stress, and
  • Socioeconomic factors, such as limited access to healthy food and safe places to exercise

If your child is eating out of boredom, for comfort, or in response to other emotions, it's called emotional eating. In addition to causing weight gain, emotional eating may also indicate that your child is struggling to deal with depression or stress.

If your child is at risk for obesity, you can take measures to get or keep things on the right track, including:

  • Limit or avoid sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • Provide plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat meals as a family as often as possible and model appropriate food choices and portions.
  • Limit consumption of fast food.
  • Adjust portion sizes appropriately for age.
  • Limit TV and other screen time to less than two hours a day. (and)
  • Be sure your child gets enough sleep.

Additional Information