Q: Our pediatrician says my 8-year-old son is overweight, but he isn’t any heavier than other kids in his class. Is this just a way to get us to use more medical care?
Amanda P., Scottsdale, Arizona
A: You didn’t mention your son’s height or weight, but the average 8-year-old boy is around 51 inches tall (normal is from 47 to 55). A healthy weight would be around 55 to 63 pounds, depending on height and body type. If your son weighs more than that, he’s probably overweight or obese.
It’s not surprising, however, that you might not realize he could be overweight. Parents are notoriously bad at assessing their child’s weight. A recent study in the British Journal of General Practice included 2,976 children and their parents; in that group, only four parents acknowledged that their child was very overweight. The real number of overweight kids was 369.
That happens for a couple of reasons: First, almost 16 percent of boys 2-19 are overweight; additionally, 17 percent are obese. So you may think your son looks about average and equate that with acceptable and healthy. Getting used to seeing kids lugging around extra weight, teetering on the brink of high LDL cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and premature heart disease will do that.
Second, if you’re overweight, or just feel guilty about your son’s weight, it might be hard to admit that you have a family health problem and that you need to do something. But you can! For an adult or child, losing just 5 percent of your body weight can significantly decrease health risks.
Our suggestion: If you re-examine the numbers and find that your son is overweight, thank your doc for saying so. Then, start a daily family walking program, and eliminate added sugars and syrups, any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole, and all trans and most saturated fats from your plates. Let us know how you do -- we’re here to help.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at