Childhood obesity is a difficult subject to tackle for parent and pediatrician alike. As a parent, you may feel embarrassed or guilty if your child is struggling with weight issues -- especially if you are overweight yourself. Or you assume that your kid's doctor will tell you if there is a concern.
Unfortunately, that may not happen. Studies show that sometimes pediatricians don't bring up weight issues. Some say they worry about insulting parents. Time concerns are also a factor, and some doctors just don't feel prepared to help.
Today, 17% of kids aged 2 through 19 are obese -- and those numbers keep growing at an alarming rate. While it may not be easy, talking with your kid's doctor may be an important first step toward protecting your child's health.
What You Need to Know About Childhood Obesity
Being overweight isn't something that your child can overcome on her own. She needs your guidance to help her overcome powerful social pressures to be sedentary and eat high-fat foods.
Being overweight tends to run in families. A child with two overweight parents is 80% more likely to be overweight herself. So if you are overweight, your child is also at risk.
Plus, being an overweight child can have serious consequences, even at a young age.
Being overweight sets kids up to be overweight adults. And when you're an overweight adult, extra pounds increase your risk for bone and joint problems, sleep problems, asthma, certain cancers, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Problems once only seen in adults are now seen in kids. Alarmingly, many of the weight-related health problems listed above for adults are also showing up in overweight children. For instance, 70% of obese children have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
Kids who are overweight are more at risk for being teased or bullied. This can lead to a realm of problems from social isolation to lower grades to a poor sense of self -- issues that can last into adulthood.
How to Bring Up Your Child's Weight: Questions to Ask
When you see your child's pediatrician, here are some questions you can ask to get the conversation started.
- Is my child's weight in the right range for his age and height?
- Should I be concerned about my child's size?
The pediatrician will assess your child's weight by using his height and weight to calculate his body mass index (BMI). The doctor will also calculate your child's BMI percentile, which compares him to other kids his age and gender. That BMI percentile places your child in a weight range: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, or obese.
But BMI is just a piece of the picture. The pediatrician will also ask you about your weight history as well your mate's, both parents' heights, your family health history, and your family eating and exercise habits. Your child's health care provider uses all this information to decide what to do next if your child's weight is outside the healthy range.