Overweight and obesity are both medical terms used to describe body weight when weight is more than what is commonly considered healthy for a given height. Obesity is linked to a greater chance of developing a variety of health problems. A child or teen that is obese is more likely to become an obese adult. 

Scientists know that a person’s body weight is influenced by genetics, metabolism, food choices, activity levels and environment. No matter the cause of extra weight, food choices and activity levels play an important role in managing weight. They are often the focus in obesity treatment programs.  

Body mass index (BMI) uses your child’s weight and height to see if your child is a healthy weight for his/her age.  It is given to you as a number.  Using this number, you can see how your child compares with children who are the same age.  This is called BMI-for-Age percentile.  

  • If the BMI is in the yellow area, your child may be underweight.
  • If the BMI is in the green area, your child is at a healthy weight.
  • If the BMI is in the light red area, your child may be overweight or obese.
  • If the BMI is the dark red area, your child may be obese.
  • If the BMI is the black area, your child may be severely obese

BMI Percentile.

BMI-for-Age Percentile

Children whose BMI falls in the overweight, obese or severely obese ranges should get treatment.

Obese children and teens are at a greater risk of developing many of the same health conditions affecting obese adults. Your healthcare provider can screen for these conditions. The most common risks include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Weaker bones and joints
  • High cholesterol
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Some cancers
  • Depression or social isolation

Working with your healthcare provider is the safest way to find out what method of obesity treatment will be best. In some families, it may be helpful to include a dietitian, psychologist, and an exercise specialist in treatment plans.

Since food choices and activity levels play an important role in managing weight they are usually the focus of obesity treatment programs.  If you want to get started making changes to diet and activity, try this easy-to-follow method recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  It is called the 5, 2, 1, 0 approach. 


Eat at least 5 fruit or vegetables servings every day.  Limit 100% fruit juices.  Teen Obesity Baby


Limit screen time (TV, video games, computer) to less than 2 hours per day. Teen Obesity TV


Get at least 1 hour of activity every day.  Go for a walk, play outside, dance or jump rope. Obesity Jump Rope


Get zero calories from drinks except for skim, fat-free or 1% milk. Teen Obesity Milk

In June 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture introduced My Plate. My Plate promotes using single servings of meats and grains at meals and covering the other half of the plate with fruits and vegetables.  Choosing whole grains whenever possible is also encouraged. 

For additional nutrition ideas and tips visit the webpage of www.ChooseMyPlate.gov

Teen Obesity Gov

Last Updated 11/2014