Recognizing overeating and overweight in children and teens is very difficult for most parents and even doctors
In adults, almost every one knows what they should weigh. If they don’t they can get on a scale, go to an “ideal weight table.” or better yet enter their height and weight in an on-line BMI calculator and in 3 seconds see if they are normal, overweight or obese. In general for adults, an BMI greater than 25 indicates overeating or overweight and an BMI of 30 or > indicates obese.

This is far more difficult in children and teens. Their weight changes normally almost every month as they mature. There is a great variability in height as well. BMI for-age percentile has been used by professionals to find out if a child is indeed overweight. These table are cumbersome and something not only doctors but parents are not comfortable with. There can be no help for an overeating child or teen until the problem is recognized.

This article proposes the easiest of solutions: The “Waist Line + 17 Rule”

It is very normal for parents to erect barriers to prevent them from enforcing eating rules in their children. Parents are used to feeding and nourishing their young and have great difficulties recognizing that their child is overeating. Doing something about it is even more difficult.

The latest US government statistics show that among the 335 million Americans 64% of the women and 74% of the adult men are either overweight or obese. About 34% of children and teens fall into these groups. That would mean that among the 115 million American households,about 3/4 of them would have one or more adults overweight and perhaps there are about 25-30 million American households with overweight children or teens and one or more overweight parents. This is the group of overeating Americans that are so hard to reach.

Body weight is second after height as one of the more important heritable factors. With one parent overweight the odds a child being overweight is 50%, and with two parents overweight it rises to 90% or more.

All of this data provides evidence that the children will follow the same path as their parents. The parental eating patterns are reproduced in the child. Starting to change this means that the parents have to recognize, that they need to lose weight and that their children or teens need to at least slow down their weight gain. Since the average child or teen gains between 6-10 lbs. a year normally, often it’s simply a matter of slowing down the weight gain so that in a year or two they will arrive at a normal or close to normal weight.

Here is how parents, especially if they are overweight, can start to help their overeating child:

1. For the parent, find any on-line adult BMI calculator, put in your weight and height, if you BMI is 26 or greater you are overeating. A simpler way is to measure your waist circumference, in a women a waist greater than 33 inches = overeating, in a man the number is 37 inches or more.

2. Measure each of your children’s waist circumference. Add 17 to their current age. If the resulting number is greater than the waist circumference then he is overeating. Example, if his waist was greater than 25 inches he is overeating (17 + 8 ys = 25, a normal 8 yr old should have a waist less than 25 inches. )

If you child exceeds this simple number he is not eating normal for his age. Although he may not be overweight yet, you can simply change the situation my making a few simple changes: stop the fruit juices or sodas, cut down on whole milk, eliminate visits to fast food restaurants, or prepare better school lunches. Get an exergame(video game and exercise, like Nintendo II or Dance Dance Revolution and play it together.

That’s all it takes. So simple, so easy to do.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Lipman M.D, board certified endocrinologist, internist & weight loss expert has treated tens of thousands of adults, children and families with weight & metabolic disorders. He is the author of 20 scientific articles and has authored four books on obesity. His interest includes not only obese adults, but family with both parents and children that are overweight. He strives to treat the family as a whole.