Sometimes, friends and relatives refer to an overweight child as having ‘puppy fat’, which implies they’ll grow out of it. Some children do, but many go on to gain additional weight.
Being overweight as a child is linked to being overweight as an adult. This leads to them having a greater risk of developing poor health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
If your child has congenital heart disease, it's really important they maintain a healthy weight to minimise any extra strain on their heart.
Measuring your child's weight
To find out whether your child is a healthy weight you can:
- use an online calculator, like the one at the Weight Concern website.
- talk to your child’s school nurse or health visitor who will be able to work it out for you.
Don’t use adult BMI calculators or charts as the same categories don't apply to children. A healthy weight for a child is different for girls and boys and for the different ages and stages they go through.
Talking to your child about their weight
Weight can be a sensitive subject. Some parents are anxious about talking to their children about their weight, because they don’t want to make them overly concerned about their body image.
This is understandable, but often children who are overweight already know but don’t want to raise the issue.
It’s important that you do talk to your child about their health.
- Avoid sitting them down for a serious talk – if you do this or keep reminding them about it then the subject of weight can become a bigger issue than it needs to be.
- Try to focus on the issue of good health – eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise. If you focus on weight as the issue then you may establish a false idea that being slim equals good health. Losing weight is secondary to keeping healthy eating patterns and regular exercise.
- Try to talk to them as and when it arises – they might have found their clothes don’t fit them, or remark that the other children at school are smaller than them. They may say that they are being teased by other children at school.
- Think up practical things you can do – set goals for the whole family so your child doesn’t feel as though they are being punished. Instead, look at what you can all do to help each other.
Keeping your child healthy
One of the most important things you can do to keep your child healthy is to make sure they eat a healthy diet and take part in physical activity. This will help them to stay a healthy weight.