There has been a lot of media attention paid to what has
been termed America’s “obesity epidemic”.
Americans have been gaining weight; as a population we are
becoming dangerously fat. In 2004, the Texas Behavioral Risk
Factor Surveillance System found that 37.1% of adults in Texas
were overweight, and 25.8% were obese.
Different people naturally come in different shapes and sizes.
However, having a high percentage of body fat has been linked
to a number of health problems, including high blood pressure
(hypertension), high cholesterol (dyslipidemia), coronary
heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer
(especially endometrial, breast, colon), gallbladder disease,
and other ailments such as sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, and
Body weight increases when the number of calories consumed
is greater than the number of calories burned. The excess
calories, those consumed but not burned or turned into tissue
for growth, are converted into body fat. To avoid the accumulation
of excessive or harmful body fat, calorie consumption should
be balanced with calorie “spending”.
The type of food eaten does have an impact on calorie consumption.
Fats provide 9 calories per gram; carbohydrates and protein
provide 4 calories per gram; alcohol provides 7 calories per
gram. Fiber provides bulk (fills the stomach) without providing
calories (because it cannot be digested). This is why it is
often recommended that Americans focus on a diet that is high
in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, accent with lean
dairy and protein products, and avoid high-sugar and high-fat
beverages and desserts. Following such a plan would naturally
provide a lower fat and lower calorie menu.
Children and adults are classified differently when it comes
to weight. One common system used with adults is Body Mass
Index (BMI). BMI computes a numeric score using a person’s
body weight and height. [BMI = wt (in kg) / ht (in m) 2] If
the BMI score is less 18.5, the person is considered underweight.
If the BMI score is at or between 18.5 and 24.9, the person
is considered to be at a normal, healthy weight. If the BMI
score is at or between 25 and 29.9, the person is considered
to be above the ideal body weight, or overweight. If the BMI
score is at or above 30.0, the person is considered to be
very overweight or obese.
For children, tracking weight is more complicated. Many doctors
use the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s
growth charts to determine whether a child is overweight or
at-risk for overweight. The chart provides a percentile ranking
based on a child’s gender, age, and BMI (weight and
height). Children classified between the 85th and 95th percentiles
are considered “at-risk for overweight”; children
at or above the 95th percentile are considered “overweight”.
The CDC charts are available at:
Explanation for use of the charts is available at:
Remember, only a child’s physician and/or parents should
make any diagnoses or judgments about body weight. It is natural
for children to fluctuate in body weight and to gain weight
prior to a growth spurt. Healthy development can take place
over a wide range of “normalcy”.