My Doctor Said My Child’s Weight is Fine…But is it?

You suspect your child is overweight.  You’re not sure if they are going to outgrow it, maybe they are just going to be a little “bigger” than average, or maybe it really is a problem.  You really don’t want to believe the latter.  On your child’s well visit to their pediatrician, your doctor informs you of your child’s BMI (Body Mass Index), used to determine overweightness or obesity.  If you are told that your child falls above the 85 percentile for weight, you should be concerned.  The 85th-95th percentile is considered overweight and above the 95th percentile is considered obese.  The problem is I have been hearing over and over again from people that their pediatrician was “not concerned” about their child’s weight when they fell into the above categories.   There also have been recent articles addressing this problem.  I’m not sure if it is linked to the whole “body image” thing and eating disorders.  Of course, we do not want to do anything to promote an eating disorder.  Yes, not everyone is going to be “thin.”  But to not seriously address a weight issue with a parent or caregiver is difficult for me, as a dietitian, to understand.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut as a parent.  Sometimes we are in denial about our child’s weight and it is reassuring to hear a physician say they will probably outgrow it.  The  BMI guidelines are clear regarding overweightness/obesity in children.   If you are told your child’s BMI is above the 85th percentile, it is very likely your son or daughter could benefit from some form of intervention.  It certainly couldn’t hurt but ignoring things may make this problem a bigger one to overcome in the future.  Listed below are some reasons why your child may benefit from seeking help from a registered dietitian:

  • BMI greater than or equal to the 85th percentile.
  • Any change in your child’s growth chart pattern – for example, weight begins to exceed height.
  • Any sudden or large weight gain.
  • Changes in eating habits that you think are worrisome.
  • Poor eating and exercise habits.  All children could benefit from education in these areas.
  • Suspicion of any eating disorder – all too often I hear parents of adolescent girls, in particular, questioning their eating habits. 
  • You just feel something is not right with regard to weight and or eating behaviors.

Not all of the above mean that your child has a weight problem.  They simply should raise a red flag.   Upon further investigation, you  may find out everything is fine and no intervention is necessary.  But maybe it is and you may have just prevented a little problem from becoming a great big one down the road.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”       Theodore Roosevelt