Many overweight and obese kids think they’re at a healthy weight

Aug. 18, 2014—When overweight kids check themselves out in the mirror, what do they see?

A significant percentage of them believe they’re seeing a person of healthy weight, according to an analysis published in a National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Data Brief. But unlike the distortion in a carnival fun-house mirror, real-world body-size misperception isn’t harmless: It may actually keep kids from reaching a healthy weight.

About the analysis

Every year, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducts in-home interviews and mobile clinic exams to collect information about the health of a sampling of about 5,000 people in the U.S. To analyze how kids perceive their own body weight, researchers looked at NHANES data from 2005 through 2012 for children and adolescents aged 8 to 15.

Researchers found that:

  • About 30 percent of children and adolescents misperceive their weight status. In other words, the way they see themselves doesn’t match their actual weight.
  • About 81 percent of overweight boys and 71 percent of overweight girls believe they’re about the right weight. Health care professionals consider kids overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is between the 85th and 94th percentile on the growth charts for their age and sex.
  • Among obese children, 48 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls believe their weight is about right. Kids are considered obese if their BMI is at or above the 95th percentile for their age and sex.

Read the entire report here.

The take-home message
Obesity is a medical condition that’s on the rise among young people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And yet, this report suggests that many kids just don’t realize that they have a weight problem, and that might mean they’re not motivated to take steps to reach a healthy weight.

Your family pediatrician is the best person to assess your child’s weight. If your son or daughter’s BMI is in the overweight or obese category as measured by the pediatrician, it’s time to take notice. Chances are your child isn’t simply big-boned. Your child might need your help in order to pull together a plan that could lead to a healthier life.

According to CDC, childhood obesity happens when kids eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough. To help your child find a healthy balance between calories in and calories out:


  • Serve plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit foods that are high in fats and sugars
  • Swap sugary drinks like chocolate milk and fruit juice for water
  • Limit screen time to no more than one to two hours a day. The more time kids spend texting, watching TV or playing video games, the less time they have for getting the hour or more of physical activity they need each and every day.

To find out more about how excess weight could be dangerous for your child, and for you, click here.


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