Obesity in Childhood/Adolescence

It's Not Just Stubborn Baby Fat

What is Obesity?

Obesity in children is defined as having a BMI above the 95th percentile based on the child's age and sex. BMI (body mass index) is based on height and weight: BMI= weight (kg)/height (m) squared.

Who Has Obesity?

Obesity is now recognized as a disease and almost anyone can get it. Rates of obesity have risen over the past several decades, especially in Western nations and developing countries. Currently 32% of children and adolescence in the U.S. are overweight while 11% are obese. More than 80% of children who are overweight now will also be overweight as adults.

Childhood Obesity Commercial

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity can be caused in part from heredity; although there is not a specific "fat gene" some people can be more susceptible to weight gain and it can be harder for them to maintain weight. Parents plays a key role in their child's weight since they have the biggest influence on food intake and physical activity level. Some families cannot afford to buy healthy food therefore SES can also be a cause. The amounts of sleep and physical activity can also cause obesity; the child needs adequate amounts of sleep and at least an hour of play a day.

Why is Obesity so Harmful?

Obesity is a risk factor for many health problems, some of which include: high blood pressure and cholesterol, respiratory problems, diabetes, liver and gallbladder disease, sleep and digestive disorders, caner, and even death. Many of these health problems are lifelong issues, so the earlier they develop, the longer the person is going to have them; being obese as a child or adolescent can lead to a lot of stress on your body for the rest of your life. There can also be social-emotional struggles due to being obese.

How Can Parents Prevent Obesity?

Studies have found that the best way for an obese child to lose weight is to be involved in a family-oriented weight loss program; the more the parents are involved in changing their lifestyle and eating habits, the more the child will become motivated to do the same. The program should be focused on changing behaviors and lifestyles. These changes include eating healthier, exercising daily, and encouraging each other. It could be up to two weeks before you see any change in weight so don't be discouraged but continue to work hard and push each other.


Berk, L. E. (2010). Development through the lifespan. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Goldhaber-Fiebert, J.D., Rubinfeld, R. E., Bhattacharya, J., Robinson, T. N., & Wise, P. H. (2013). The utility of childhood and adolescent obesity assessment in relation to adult health. Medical Decision Making, 33(2), 163-175.