Real Life Solutions: Is My Child Really Overweight?

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mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: I have never thought of my child as fat, but the pediatrician tells me he is according to the Body Mass Index charts. Won’t my son grow out of this baby fat? I never thought he was overweight. His dad and I are overweight. Maybe we do not see it.

A: You join many parents who do not see their children as overweight. Studies indicate that parents of overweight children often are in denial and have the misconception that their child is normal weight.

Interestingly, even parents of normal weight kids think their children are smaller than they actually are. One reason for this is because there are so many overweight children now. Thus, when a parent looks at her child, that child does not look much different than most children. But “normal” is not necessarily healthy. Because of this, you cannot rely on the power of sight. You need to take into account what the pediatrician is telling you.

The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure based on a child’s age, gender, height, and weight. It is one indicator that a weight problem exists. Children who score at or above the 85th percentile on growth charts are at risk of being overweight. The concern is that excess weight can cause multiple health issues now and later in life.

We now see record rates of diabetes, hypertension, and other serious diseases in childhood because of the obesity epidemic. We know that being an overweight child increases that child’s risk of heart disease later in life. It is best to get a handle on this as early as possible, especially while you have the power to control the diet of your child.

I have also worked with a number of parents who feel guilty about their own weight. As a result, they do not monitor their child’s eating habits. Do not go there. Make eating healthy a family affair. You do not have to be at your goal weight in order to help your child. And if you are sneaking food and overeating at night when your child is asleep, this is still no reason to give up. Remember, you control the food your child eats. This is an important difference between adult and child eating.

Some Silverware

Even if you personally feel defeated, think of it this way. You have the opportunity to give your child a good start in life and may prevent him from overeating. Do not talk to your child about dieting. Instead, control the diet, teach him to eat healthy foods, and eliminate sodas and products high in sugar and fat. If you are uncertain what to do to make changes, make an appointment with a registered dietitian who will help guide you. In addition, there are a number of wonderful Web sites geared to helping parents and kids eat healthy.

Raising Healthy Kids in an Unhealthy World by Dr. Linda Mintle (Thomas Nelson, 2008)

Have you had to deal with weight issues with your kids?

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