Is my child overweight?

Is my child fat?

Babies and toddler are meant to be chubby, right? But when does ‘chubby’ turn into ‘fat’ and should we become concerned about our child’s weight?

Mothers often want to make excuses for the extra weight our kids are carrying around. We say things like ‘it’s just baby fat’, or ‘he’ll outgrow it’ – statements which are often true – but to ensure your child’s continued good health and to avoid your child taking excess weight into adolescence and beyond, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor about how you can help your child maintain a healthy weight.

Around a third of the children in New Zealand are considered overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to a number of health problems and issues with self-esteem. Once your child is overweight, it’s a lot harder to get him back down to a normal weight than it is to ensure that he doesn’t reach that point in the first place.

How do I know when my child is overweight?

Chances are you’ll know when your child is overweight simply by looking at him, but doctors have created scientific measures to help you understand and gauge your child’s particular weight category.


Whereas doctors once used height and weight measurments to determine if a person was in a healthy weight range, they now use a much more accurate measurement called Body Mass Index (BMI) to categorise weight in both children and adults. The BMI scale for children is a bit different from that of adults, so for kids between the ages of 2 and 20 years, be sure to use the scale designed for children.

The reason BMI is used is because some children really are big-boned or carrying weight differently because of his age. Developmental age plays a part in how the body carries and stores weight, so BMI will be gauged differently at varying ages. BMI is considered the best gauge of weight in children, but it’s not the final word. It cannot account for kids who are particularly muscular, as is often the case with kids heavily involved in sport. So, talk to your doctor if weight is a concern for your athletic child.

What is a healthy range BMI?

The BMI system uses your child’s height and weight to calculate his place on the BMI scale. In general, a child who has a BMI for his age of between the 85th and the 94th percentile is considered overweight. A child who has a BMI for his age in the 95th percentile or above is considered obese. If your child falls into either of these ranges, you’ll need to take action to prevent multiple potential health problems from occurring in the future.

Health risk of a high BMI

Because an overweight child often grows into an overweight adult, it’s important to establish good eating and exercise habits for your child while he’s young. Being overweight as a child can lead to:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Orthopaedic disorders
  • Liver problems
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Sleep
  • Cardiomyopathy

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