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Pediatrics – Weight Management


Weighing too much or too little can be a problem.  In the United States, weighing too much is the more common situation.  It can be unhealthy to be underweight or overweight.  Of growing concern, many Americans are becoming obese, which means very overweight.  Weight can influence how your child looks and feels about him or herself.

Weighing too much can lead to many health problems, including heart disease and diabetes.  Weighing too little can also lead to illness.  Weight management means keeping your body weight at a healthy level.  Your child can achieve and maintain his or her ideal weight by eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise.

Body Mass Index

Risk of Associated Disease According to BMI and Waist Size
BMI Waist less than or equal to
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)
Waist greater than
40 in. (men) or
35 in. (women)
18.5 or lessUnderweightN/A
18.5 – 24.9NormalN/A
25.0 – 29.9OverweightIncreasedHigh
30.0 – 34.9ObeseHighVery High
35.0 – 39.9ObeseVery HighVery High
40 or greaterExtremely ObeseExtremely HighExtremely High

It is also important to know your child’s body mass index (BMI).  BMI is frequently used by healthcare professionals to determine if a patient is overweight or obese.  The BMI is also used to estimate how much body fat a person has.  Your doctor, a nutritionist, or an exercise physiologist can measure your child’s body mass.  BMI percentages are used to determine your child’s risk for certain diseases.

Ideal Weight Range

You can learn what your child’s ideal weight range is by looking at a chart or asking your doctor or nutritionist.  Ideal weight ranges are calculated for males and females, and adults and children.  Ideal weight ranges are based on your child’s height and bone size.  People can be small, medium, or large-boned.

How do People Become Overweight?

People can become overweight if they consume more calories from food and drinks than they burn off through exercise and activity.  A calorie is a unit of measure for energy.  Your child’s body needs a daily amount of calories to use for energy.  However, when people eat too much or make unhealthy food choices, they can consume more calories than their bodies need.  If they fail to get enough activity to burn off the extra calories, the excess calories add up to extra pounds. 

How do People Become Underweight?

People can become underweight if they do not consume enough calories from food and drinks.  People can become underweight if they exercise too much and burn off too many calories.  Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, can cause people to become severely underweight and lead to serious medical complications.   

Weight Management

Weight management entails knowing what your child’s target weight and BMI goals are and participating in a plan to attain and maintain the goals.  People that are overweight should eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise.  People that are underweight should eat a well-balanced diet designed to achieve an ideal weight and prevent losing weight that has been gained.  Exercise is important for people that are underweight, but their exercise recommendations are different than those for people that are overweight.

Your doctor can make recommendations for a weight management program that is specific to your child’s health needs.  You may be referred to a nutritionist that can help you plan daily meals.  My Pyramid (www.mypyramid.gov) presents helpful guidelines for healthy eating and exercise. Counseling may help if your child has an eating disorder.
It is important to have your doctor examine your child before embarking on an exercise regime.  Your doctor may refer you to an exercise physiologist that can help your child formulate and gradually increase an exercise program specifically designed for his or her body.  By managing his or her weight responsibly, your child can improve his or her health and reduce his or her risk for future health concerns.