Health Library

What is Obesity?

Overweight and obesity are both medical terms. Obesity is a medical disease that occurs when weight is more than what is expected for a given height. Obesity is linked to a greater chance of developing health problems. A child or teen that has obesity is more likely to become an adult that has obesity.

Causes of Obesity

Scientists know that a person’s body weight is influenced by genetics, medications, metabolism, activity levels and getting more calories than the body needs. Sleep patterns, culture, and where you live may also cause the body to store extra fat.

Diagnosis of Obesity

BMI stands for body mass index. BMI is calculated using your child’s weight and height. 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 and gender. This is called BMI-for-age percentile.

BMI for Age Percentile

BMI Graph

BMI Graph Cream classified as underweight, less than the 5th percentile

BMI Graph Green determined to be within a healthy weight range, 5th percentile up to the 85th percentile

BMI Graph Yellow diagnosed with overweight, 85th to less than the 95th percentile

BMI Graph Red diagnosed with obesity, equal to or greater than the 95th percentile

BMI Percentile.

Children whose BMI falls in the yellow or red ranges should get treatment.

Risks of Obesity

Children and teens with obesity are at a greater risk of developing many of the same health problems affecting adults with obesity. 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
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Breathing problems
  • Some cancers
  • Depression or social isolation

Treatment of Obesity

Working with your healthcare provider is the safest way to find out how to best treat obesity. Your provider may also refer you to a dietitian, psychologist, and an exercise specialist.

The first step to treating obesity is usually working with food choices and activity levels. If you want to get started, try the 5, 2, 1, 0 plan recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics or MyPlate.


Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables.

Eat at least five fruit or vegetables servings every day.


Limit kids to two hours of screen time each day.

Limit screen time (TV, video games, computer, tablet, and phone) to less than two hours per day.


Kids should do one hour of physical activity a day.

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


Teen Obesity Milk

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


MyPlate offers ideas and tips to help build an eating style that meet’s a person’s health needs. For children and teens, start by using age-appropriate 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

Teen Obesity Gov

Last Updated 05/2023

Reviewed By Maggie Huey, RD

Visiting Cincinnati Childrens.

Cincinnati Children’s has primary care services at locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.