A picture of a class of schoolchildren, circa 1903. Take a good look at these children. Do you see anything different from what you would see in our present day?
An excerpt from “The New Thin is the Old Normal, Childhood is No Exception, Part 1”
In America the childhood overweight and obesity epidemic has made us out of tune on what we subjectively judge as what is thin, normal and overweight in children.
Imagine these same kids in a new picture taken today, in the 21st century. What if this new picture showed what was happening in present day one out of three children are overweight America? Would we be able to pick out the 12 kids that would be categorized as overweight?
These (21st century children) in the new American average, the “normal weight-looking” kids might actually meet the criteria for what a doctor or dietitian could label as overweight. It is a subjective way to assess weight, by looking with our eyes.
In “Why the New Thin is the Old Normal: Children Are No Exception, Part 1” my call to action states that because we are accustomed to seeing bigger sized America kids, there is more complacency and learning too late that our children have weight issues.
Eyes do not tell the whole story. Neither does a scale. Nor a Body Mass Index (BMI) chart.
So what to do?
This is part 2 of “The New Thin is the Old Normal: Children are No Exception”
A good dietitian or doctor would assess your child’s body weight using subjective and objective measures. We need your involvement, you as the most involved person with your child, to help us health professionals make the right judgements for your child’s health.
What is a child’s normal weight?
And has what is normal changed over the years?
Your Child’s Subjective Weight Measurements
- Visual appearance without clothing
- Bone structure : large, medium, small
- Genetic tendency: mother, father, siblings, grandparent
Your Child’s Objective Weight Measurements
- Actual body weight tracked on a curved growth chart over time
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Body fat percentage
Now we add the extra element of importance:
Knowing and understanding when the critical periods occur during your child’s life to keep an extra close track of their weight
- Your newborn and infant, closely with your doctor, should have regular weight checks. If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you may see different weight results than with a formula fed infant. I recommend that your doctor is use the WHO growth charts for breastfed babies if your baby is exclusively breastfed. See article here for more information. Worried that your baby is overweight? Learn more by reading “So your doctor says your baby is overweight?”
- At age 1 compared to age 2 ***One of the most critical times to prevent childhood obesity is at the well visit between ages 1-2 years old *** This is my personal favorite because this early age is the ideal time to catch your child’s potential weight issues early on in their life. How it works: take your toddler’s weight at age one (12 months) and plot on the weight chart. At age two (24 months) plot your child’s weight again on the same weight chart graph. If the child has jumped two lines, this could be a possible sign that your child needs some nutritional intervention.
- Between the ages of 3-6 years old children’s growth slows down. This is also a parent’s time to slow down on the pressure for your child to finish their plate and eat big portions. A child this age usually eats two meals during the day quite well and picks at their third main meal.
- The age of pre-puberty (around 10-12 years-old for girls, 11-13 years-old for boys) you will see a remarkable increase in their appetite and they will most likely gain weight before their growth spurt. Need more information, read this popular article on “Teenage Weight: When a Jump in Weight is Normal”
- After the teen growth spurt is a time to be vigilant because your teenager’s growth is slowing down and their overeating with the wrong choices leads to your teen’s potential weight issues.
Throughout this whole process it is also important to know what to say to your kids if you feel they have a weight issue. This is a more delicate and important problem, especially with the rise in eating disorders, even among young children and boys. Two other popular articles published here may help guide you on this issue: “One Mom’s Approach to Keep Normal Eating The Norm” and “Your Child’s Normal Eating Starts With Your Normal Eating”.
Do you let your doctor or pediatrician be the only one to keep track of your child’s weight?
Another last tip is to keep your child’s weight as part of their health record. Keep their personal health file and records of their weight in one place and keep note of your children’s weight, yearly or more often. (I am not advocating to regularly weigh your children, but when they have weight checks to keep a record of their weights in their home health records).
Hope this information has been useful. Please let me know if something doesn’t seem clear or if you have any questions/comments. If you find that this article can help someone you know, do not hesitate to share it along using your favorite method. I appreciate your support and efforts on the team approach to fight the rising rates of childhood obesity.
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