What is childhood obesity? Definition

Childhood obesity is defined as unusual or excessive fat accumulation in the body of a child or a teenager. It is a medical condition that may impair health. 

A child is declared obese when the excess deposit of fat in his or her body goes to an extent as to adversely affect the health of the child.

Calculating his or her body mass index (BMI) is what defines the physical status of the child, teenager or even an adult. BMI is a formula, which calculates the weight of the individual in relation to his height.

This is an index that is acceptable for calculating the BMI in children two years and above. You could use the BMI percentile calculator for children and teens.

Obesity in a child can make the obese child a potential candidate as a youth and adult for various health complications such as diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, and more. These health risks can be life-threatening and they spread across almost every medical specialty.

Due to these adverse effects of obesity and its increasing prevalence in children and adolescents, childhood obesity is being declared a serious public health concern. Obese children are 70% more likely to become obese adults.

The global and American childhood obesity statistics show how dangerously obesity is increasing in children. Obesity in the U.S. children and youth is declared an epidemic. There has been an unexpected and large number of cases steadily but surely increasing in the last few decades.

Knowing how to prevent childhood obesity in your children, therefore, becomes important.

Serious health disorders such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, which were once the health problems of late adulthood, are now seen in obese youths.

To add to these are emotional problems like poor self-esteem and depression. This is due to the teasing by colleagues and harassment and discrimination by the family. Obesity does have a deep impact on the life of obese children.

Various causes and risk factors are responsible for making children and teenagers obese. The main risk factor that has caused an alarming rise in obese children is a lifestyle. Two factors, namely eating the wrong choice of foods and lack of physical activity are primarily to blame for this rising trend.

Overweight and obese differences

Being overweight and obese are two different aspects of weighing more than normal. If the child is overweight, means you weigh more than what your weight should be. Being obese means you weigh too much, above what your normal weight should be with an increasing tendency of obesity health risks.

According to CDC, (Center for Disease Control and Prevention)

Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and below the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex. Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children and teens of the same age and sex”.

Besides the help of BMI for children to determine if a child is obese, some professionals define obesity in children differently. They consider child obesity at a body weight at least 20% higher than what the normal weight of the child should be at his or her height or a body fat percentage of more than 25% in boys and 32% in girls.

Besides the increasing prevalence rate of obesity in children, what does alarm is the fact that the average weight of obese children is now more than it was found in earlier surveys. In other words, obese children weigh more now than obese children use to weigh in earlier surveys.

A quote by Judy Davis somewhat sums it up:

“This might be the first generation where kids are dying at a younger age than their parents and it’s related primarily to the obesity problem.”


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the worldwide prevalence of adult obesity nearly tripled between 1975 and 2016. In this same time period, the prevalence of overweight or obese children and adolescents increased more than 4-fold. This shows that childhood obesity is showing a more dangerous trend and needs to be curtailed.

A child’s eating pattern is greatly influenced by parental practices. Most kids eat what their parents buy, so parents need to exercise healthy eating habits for children and all adults in the house.

One of the best strategies to reduce childhood obesity is to improve the eating habits of your children and encourage regular physical activity in the form of outdoor games and swimming. Adults should regularly exercise.

If your child is obese, you should get him treated to manage his weight. Preventing childhood obesity is a better option, which you could practice early on in your child’s life. It will help protect your child’s health now and in the future from comorbidities.