The most common way to find out whether you’re overweight or obese is to determine your body mass index (BMI). BMI is an estimate of body fat, and it’s a good gauge of your risk for obesity related diseases. The higher your BMI, the higher your risk of developing health problems such as coronary heart disease, heart attack, blocked arteries, stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
There are many factors that determine your BMI, weight and body fat. They include genetics and family history, environmental factors and daily lifestyle choices. While factors like family history cannot be changed, there are many simple ways to bring healthy choices to life in order to reduce your risk for health problems and disease.
How do your healthy choices stack up? Use this calculator to calculate BMI for adults, 20 years old and older.
Use this calculator to calculate BMI and the corresponding BMI-for-age percentile based on the CDC growth charts for children and teens (ages 2 through 19 years).
BMI for children and young adults ages 2-20 is referred to as BMI-for-age. The reason for this is that body fat changes as you grow. BMI-for-age is plotted on separate growth charts to determine a BMI percentile ranking.
A BMI percentile is an indication of how a child’s measurements compare to others of the same age and gender. A child whose BMI is at the 50th percentile is close to the average of the population. A child above the 95th percentile is considered obese because 95 percent of the population weighs less than he or she does. A child below the 5th percentile is considered underweight because 95 percent of the population weighs more. You may receive these charts at your child’s yearly checkup.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, excess abdominal fat is an important, independent risk factor for disease. The evaluation of waist circumference to assess the risks associated with obesity or overweight is supported by research. In fact, studies have shown that WHtR is a stronger predictor of cardiovascular risk and mortality.
Your waist to height ratio is calculated by dividing waist size by height. If your waist measurement is less than half your height, you’re likely not at risk for obesity-related disease.
The following chart helps you determine if your WHtR falls in a healthy weight range:
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Whether you’re at risk of becoming obese, currently overweight or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and related health problems. Not surprisingly, the steps to prevent weight gain are the same as the steps to lose weight: daily exercise, a healthy diet, and a long-term commitment to watch what you eat and drink.
Be a health champion for your child. The best way for you to encourage healthy eating is to eat well yourself. Children will follow the lead of the adults they see every day. By eating fruits and vegetables and not overindulging in less nutritious foods and beverages, you’ll be sending the right message.
Another way to be a good role model is to limit portions and not overeat. Talk about your feelings of fullness, especially with younger children. You might say, “This is delicious, but I’m full, so I’m going to stop eating.” Similarly, parents who are always dieting or complaining about their bodies may foster these same negative feelings in their children.
In the last 20 years, our portion sizes have gotten much larger. In fact, larger portions make it easier to overeat or consume more energy than your body needs. A single meal can contain a whole day’s worth of calories.
A portion is defined as “the amount of food or drink you choose to eat.” A portion can include several food groups, like a sandwich (grain, meat, vegetable). Sometimes it’s okay to have more than one portion, like when you have been really active.
Just remember to pay attention to when you are truly hungry, eat slowly, and to stop eating when you are full.
See how some of the portions sizes have grown, for example:
Estimating the appropriate portion size is easier than you think. Click here to view a portion size guide to learn how to use your hands to estimate portion sizes.
To learn the right amount of food for you and your child(ren), visit the USDA’s ChooseMyPlate guide.
Click on the resources listed below to download:
Try to keep a positive attitude about food. It’s easy for food to become a source of conflict. Well-intentioned parents might find themselves bargaining or bribing children so they eat the healthy food in front of them. A better strategy is to give children some control, but to also limit the kind of foods available at home.
Children should decide if they’re hungry, what they will eat from the foods served, and when they’re full. Parents control which foods are available to the child, both at mealtime and between meals. Here are some guidelines to follow:
A child’s healthcare provider is the best health resource. Your provider can help assess your child’s risk for overweight or obesity. They can help to explain how a child is growing and, if need be, make recommended changes in eating or activity habits that can benefit the whole family. A registered dietitian is also uniquely qualified to help families recognize and change eating habits that could be contributing to excess weight gain in a child.
When speaking with your child’s health care provider, consider the following: