Is My Eight-Year-Old Overweight

My eight-year-old daughter is 57 inches tall and weighs 100 pounds. I think that she is overweight, but I'm not sure. How can I determine the proper weight for her age and height?


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

The best way to determine if your daughter is within an appropriate weight range for her height and age is to consult your pediatrician. They have standardized growth charts that plot weight against height, comparing weights for specific heights, independent of the child's age.

These charts recognize that at any given height, normal healthy children show a wide variation in weight. According to the chart that I have, your daughter is in the 95th percentile of weight for height, and so is in the top of the normal range of weight for height.

There are also standardized charts that plot your child's height and weight compared to others in her age group. If her height and weight both fall close to each other as a percentage of height and weight for age, then you may be able to determine that she is not overweight. For her age, your daughter's weight and height are both well over the 95th percentile. In other words, she is probably taller and heavier than almost all other children her age. She is essentially 'off the charts' as they say. Because your daughter's stature is challenging the limits of the tables, it may be easier to determine if she is an appropriate weight for height by using her body mass index, also know as BMI. This is determined by:

  • Finding her weight in kilograms: 100 lbs/2.2kg = 45.5 kg.
  • Finding her height in meters: 57 inches/39.4M = 1.44 meters
  • Squaring her height in meters: 1.44 x 1.44 = 2.07
  • Dividing her weight in kilograms (#1) by the height in meters squared (#3): 45.5/2.07 = 21.76

For adults, a BMI above 27 defines obesity. For children, no one BMI has been determined as the definition of obesity. However, standardized percentile curves for the BMI have been developed for children. According to professionals in the field of obesity, a BMI about the 95th percentile for age is a conservative and appropriate cutoff for the definition of obesity in children.

According to the charts, a BMI of 21 for an eight-year-old girl is just slightly above the 95th percentile. A BMI of 16 defines the 50th percentile for eight-year-old girls.

Average BMIs are lower from ages one to six, and then increase as the child gets older. For example, a BMI of 21 is just at the 95th percentile for 9-year-olds but is at the 80th percentile for 12-year olds.

According to the two types of charts consulted, and according to the BMI charts for age, your daughter is falling into the category of being overweight for her age and, more importantly, her height. However, despite all the formal definitions and charts, a professional's look and examination can better tell you if your daughter is too heavy.

Therefore I come back to the suggestion that it would be best to speak with her pediatrician about the issue. The pediatrician should have a history of her growth and health, can examine her, talk to you about her eating and exercise habits, and is in a better position to decide if your daughter is indeed too heavy for her height.

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