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Body weight- tips for parents

A child's early habits can affect their later body weight. By encouraging your children to lead a healthy lifestyle, you can help them maintain a healthy body weight later on in life.

A person’s body weight can be influenced by what they ate when they were children, or even what their mothers ate before they were born.

Your child’s body weight

Children who are very heavy at even just two years of age, tend to have more chance of being overweight later on in life. And some studies have found that people who are overweight or obese as children have higher risks of some cancers later on in life.

A child’s weight will vary with their age and developmental stage, so it can be quite difficult to measure if they are overweight. You can look at the Children’s body mass index calculator on the Weight Concern website if you want to look at your child’s weight. Alternatively, speak to your doctor if you have any concerns.

By encouraging your children to eat healthily and keep active, you can give them the best chance of having a healthy weight as adults.

Encourage your child to eat a balanced diet from a young age. What you can do

Most overweight children need adult support to be able to make the changes to eating and activity that are needed for weight control. And in children, the goal is often to just slow down weight gain or maintain weight so that they can ‘grow into’ their weight.

The most important way of encouraging your children to live healthily is to set a good example yourself. Try to get the whole family involved in healthy living. Keep a healthier selection of food at home, make time for healthy family meals together, and do activities together that everyone enjoys like walking, cycling or skating.

For more tips on encouraging your children to eat healthily, go to our Tips for Parents page in the Diet and healthy eating section. Or for tips on encouraging your children to be active, go to the Tips for Parents page in the Exercise and activity section.

Talking to your child about body weight

Body weight is a sensitive issue but an important one to discuss. Children as young as 7 can be unhappy about their weight and may need parental support.

Weight Concern has plenty of tips and advice on their website for talking to children about weight. The site also has a separate childhood body mass index calculator since the standard BMI measurement does not apply to young children.

Pregnancy and childhood body weight

A child’s weight can be influenced by what their mother ate before they were born. One study found that if a mother was overweight before she became pregnant, her child was three times more likely to be overweight at a very young age. And new research has shown that mothers who gained too much weight while pregnant were more likely to have overweight children.

Doctors usually recommend that women should put on some weight when they are pregnant. If you are pregnant or planning to have a child, talk to your doctor for more advice on body weight.

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Updated: 25 September 2009