What is considered obese or overweight? The answer isn’t so simple for kids.

What is considered obese can vary from child to child, which emphasizes the importance of bringing your child their pediatrician for their annual well-child visit.

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Around 1 in 5 children have obesity, and weight continues to be a growing issue among kids in the U.S — but what is considered obese for a child? The answer isn’t the same for each child, and it’s important to bring your child to see their pediatrician for their annual well-child visit.

“The journey to prevent childhood obesity often involves a lifestyle overhaul that requires buy-in and participation from everyone involved,” said Paulina R. Maida, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group. “This is a team effort among the family, child and their pediatrician, and everybody must remain patient, determined and persistent with their efforts. We are here to answer questions and cheer you on every step of the way.” If you are concerned about your child’s weight, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s up to the parents to help their child establish a healthy lifestyle and behaviors. Children shouldn’t be shamed for their size; they should be encouraged and rewarded for making healthy choices.

Regular follow-up appointments with a pediatrician can help your child track their progress and keep everyone on target to reach their health goals. Forming this relationship is important, because it can increase a child’s comfort to discuss a sensitive topic, such as weight, in a way that helps them feel supported and not punished. Forming this positive relationship with their health care provider also serves as an important step in avoiding the development of eating disorders.

What is considered obese or overweight?
Childhood obesity creates risks for additional health issues that can include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and mental health concerns. However, what is considered obese can vary from child to child.

To determine whether your child is at a healthy weight or has obesity, their pediatrician will monitor your child’s growth patterns, including weight and height. The provider will review their personal and family health history and take into account their current lifestyle habits. The pediatrician will use this information along with national health figures that measure childhood obesity. These resources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) growth charts and childhood BMI percentile calculator, which calculates body mass index (BMI) differently than for adults.

A childhood BMI that is considered obese or overweight is determined by comparing growth charts to children of the same age and sex. Overweight is a BMI between the 85th and 95th percentile, and obesity is considered at or above the 95th percentile. Healthy weight is between the 5th and 85th percentile, and underweight is below the 5th percentile.

Ways to prevent childhood obesity
Eat healthy. Choose and prepare healthy meals that are rich in nutrients and not too high in fat and calories.
Regular physical fitness. The goal is 60 minutes of movement per day. Allow the child to participate in activities they enjoy.
Limit screen time. Time on a phone, tablet, TV, video games or computer discourage a child from moving. The CDC recommends a limit of two hours of screen time per day.
Value sleep. Studies show that a lack of sleep has a direct link to childhood obesity. Aim for at least nine hours every night for school-age children. Younger children need more than 10 hours of sleep and naps every day.

The pediatricians with Norton Children’s Medical Group are ready to help guide families to develop better nutrition, fitness and lifestyle choices. We want to see your child live a happy and successful life in good health, and the sooner these healthier, obesity-fighting habits can be formed, the better a child’s health outcomes likely will be for the rest of their life.