Children and Weight Control

Proper Exercise & Weight Control for Underweight Teens

Healthy Weight Gain Through Diet

Making small changes to your underweight teen’s meals is one way to help him gain weight in a healthful manner, according to the Center for Young Women’s Health. For example, you can replace your skim milk and other nonfat and low-fat dairy products with whole milk and other whole dairy products. You can also start cooking meals with healthier oils such as olive and canola, and add nuts whenever possible because they are a healthful way to add weight and calories to any diet. Your underweight teen’s goal of weight gain is not an excuse for him to overindulge in unhealthful foods such as cookies and ice cream.

Energy

One of the most important aspects of gaining weight for underweight teens is their vitamin and mineral intake. According to a web page on the University of Minnesota website, your teen needs to increase her vitamin intake to increase her energy levels, which will help her gain weight and become healthier. For example, adding vitamins such as zinc, iron, folate and calcium, and additional protein, gives your teen the energy she needs to gain weight and become healthier.

Exercise

According to the Family Doctor, a website designed by doctors for reference, your underweight teen should get plenty of exercise. While you might consider exercise something you do to lose weight, exercise is about weight control and overall body health. Because aerobic exercises tend to burn more calories and your teen needs those calories to gain a healthy amount of weight, muscle building exercises are a better choice. For example, your underweight teen can lift weights or practice yoga to help build muscle and weight.

Healthy Weight Gain Time Frame

Just like weight loss, weight gain is something your teen should take her time with. It’s not healthy to lose a lot of weight all at once, and it’s not healthy to gain it back all at once. According to the Center for Young Women’s Health, your underweight teen should focus on gaining 1 to 2 pounds each week. While she might not be able to gain the same amount each week, her overall weight gain should average 1 to 2 pounds per week.

Height & Weight Guidelines for Children

The Growth Chart

Doctors primarily use a growth chart to see how children grow. In general, you should see similar growth over the years. For example, if he starts out life in the 60th percentile for height, you should expect him to remain in that general percentile throughout his life. A child who is low on the weight percentile chart and high in height will be tall and skinny, while a child low on the height chart and high on the weight chart may be overweight or obese. The doctor will determine the child's body mass index -- a measurement of weight for height -- to determine whether your child has a weight problem.

Beyond BMI

Though many doctors use the BMI as an weight problem indicator, that isn't the only measurement they'll take into consideration. A high BMI doesn't necessarily indicate a weight problem. Children who are big boned or particularly strong may have a high BMI, but still be healthy. Additionally, if your child seems healthy overall, is eating a healthful diet rather than one full of junk, and exercising regularly, but still has a higher-than-normal BMI, your doctor might not be worried.

Signs of Concern

Big changes to either height or weight are usually a sign of concern. The doctor won't necessarily worry that your child's height drops from the 75th to the 73rd percentile, but dropping from the 75th to the 50th is a sign that she's not growing properly. A BMI under the 5th percentile shows that your child is underweight, while one over the 85th percentile show that she's overweight. If this is the case, the doctor will talk to you about diet modifications.

Solutions to Weight Problems

If your child needs to gain weight, you need to increase the amount of calories he takes in daily, preferably in a healthy way. For example, you might switch to whole milk over skim or add a bit of extra peanut butter in his sandwich. When he needs to lose weight, it's best not to put him on a strict diet. Rather, it's better to attempt to increase the amount of healthy, low-calorie foods he eats while decreasing the amount of unhealthful, high-calorie foods. If the afternoon snack has always been a few handfuls of chips, for example, switch to pretzels and hummus or cheese and crackers. These will satisfy the salty craving, while still providing nutrients such as protein and healthy fats. Also, ensure that he gets a proper amount of exercise.

Teaching Children How to Weigh Things

Digital Scale

Your child can start using a digital scale as soon as he can recognize numbers. Show him how to turn the scale on and wait for the scale to calibrate to zero. Then, he can place objects on the scale, noting the weight shown. To make it more challenging, have him guess how much an object weighs once he's weighed a few objects to use as a standard.

Balance Scale

Show your child how a balance scale measures two items against each other by placing objects on each side. You can balance the scale out by putting equal sized objects on each side. When she gets the concept, give her two objects and have her guess which one is heavier, then test her guess by placing them on opposite sides of the scale. The heavier one will sink lower. Another activity to use with this scale is to challenge her to select several different objects that will balance the scale.

Double Beam Balance

The double beam balance scale is for older children to use, and is the type of scale he's likely to encounter in science class. Show him how, when you place an item on the scale, it pushes the balance marker up higher. When you move the largest weight over, it might sink the balance marker lower. Adjust the weights until the marker is right in the middle, then show him how to read the scale. Let him practice by weighing a variety of objects. As he gains more experience, he should be better able to guess which weights to move over.

Subtracting Your Weight

You can also use math to find the weight of an item. Have your child step on the scale and note her weight. Then, have her hold an object and step on the scale again, noting the new weight. The weight of the object is the difference between her weight and her weight while holding the object. A digital scale that shows decimal points will be the most accurate in this method.

How Much Weight Should I Have Gained at 22 Weeks?

Gain a Healthy Amount of Weight

According to current doctor recommendations, if your weight was normal prior to pregnancy with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 you should gain four pounds during your first trimester then about one pound per week for the rest of your pregnancy making your optimal weight gain by 22 weeks 14 pounds. If you were underweight to start with a BMI of below 18.5, you should gain five pounds in your first trimester and 1.25 pounds per week for the rest of your pregnancy, putting your weight at 22 weeks at 17.5 pounds. If you are over weight with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 you should gain three pounds in your first trimester followed by .75 pounds per week putting your weight gain at 22 weeks at 10.5.

Don't Go Overboard

Doctors continue to debate how much weight women should be gaining during pregnancy, with some claiming that the current recommendations are too high. Some experts argue that the recommended weight gain for overweight women is especially high, saying that women who are overweight to start their pregnancy should aim to stay around 11 pounds weight gain for their entire pregnancy.

Bottom Line

While there may be some argument for women who are overweight gaining less weight than women with a healthy BMI, the recommended weight gain at 22 weeks of 14 pounds, 17.5 pounds or 10.5 pounds for normal, underweight and overweight women, respectively is the standard and most widely accepted recommendation.

Problems Later in Life With Large Birth Weight Babies

Overweight or Obesity

Hefty newborns grow up to be overweight or obese children and adults, in many cases. In a Chinese study published in the 2000 "International Journal of Obesity," a birth weight greater than 4,000 grams was a major risk factor for childhood obesity. In LGA babies, the risk for childhood obesity increased from 8 to 26 percent. A March 2003 article published in "Pediatrics" noted that each 2.2 pound increase in birth weight increased the risk of adolescent overweight by 40 percent if their mothers were also overweight. But for LGA infants born to normal-weight mothers, the risk of overweight in adolescence dropped to 20 percent.

Diabetes

An LGA baby who becomes overweight as a child, adolescent or adult is at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes -- once known as adult-onset diabetes, because it rarely affected children-- that develops in childhood or adolescence often progresses rapidly, due to late diagnosis, changing insulin requirements in adolescence and poor treatment compliance. Both overweight and genetic predisposition play a part in the development of type 2 diabetes, the Merck Manual reports.

Heart Disease

You might think of heart disease as a disorder of adulthood, but the seeds of heart disease are often sown in childhood and adolescence. As many as 49 percent of overweight teens and 61 percent of obese teens have at least one risk factor for heart disease, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the May 2012 issue of "Pediatrics." Risk factors include diabetes or pre-diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Combatting the Problem

Large babies born to normal-weight parents have less risk of developing weight problems, which lead to a multitude of health issues, than those whose parents are overweight or obese. Parental overweight is the main risk factor for overweight in childhood; 80 percent of obese 10- to 14-year-olds with obese parents will be obese as adults, the University of Rochester explains. Reducing your own risks by losing weight, exercising more and eating a healthier diet can also reduce your child's risk of serious health problems at a young age and all the way through adulthood.

Weight Gain Expectations for Children

Ages Two to Three Years

The average toddler measures 31.5 to 42.5 inches between the second and third birthday, according to Boston Children's Hospital. Weight may span from about 22 to 34 pounds at age two, and from 26 to 38 pounds at age three. Your toddler's pediatrician will document her length and weight on a growth chart. Some children may be taller and heavier than these averages, and being outside of the percentiles on a growth chart does not mean that a child is necessarily over- or underweight, according to Kids Health.

Ages Four to Eight Years

A child may grow more than 10 inches between his fourth and eighth birthdays, and may also gain as many as 30 to 40 pounds. A four-year-old standing about 40 inches typically weighs between 28 and 44 pounds, according to Boston Children's Hospital. Six-year-old children measure 42 to 49 inches tall and may weigh between 36 and 60 pounds. By the eighth birthday, your son or daughter may range from 4 to 4 1/2 feet tall and may weigh from 44 to 80 pounds.

Ages Nine to Twelve Years

Your child's growth spurts grow more pronounced as she approaches puberty. Children during this phase of life may gain up to about a foot in height and as many as 50 pounds in weight. A 10-year-old may average 4 to 5 feet in height, and weight may range from 54 to 106 pounds. A child at 12 years old may range from 4 1/2 feet to about 5 1/2 feet tall, and may weigh from about 65 to 135 pounds, according to Boston Children's Hospital.

Ages Twelve to Sixteen Years

Children typically reach their adult height and weight during the mid-teenage years, though some children may grow throughout their teens and into their early twenties. Heights span from about 5 feet to about 5-foot-10 at age 14, with weights ranging from about 85 to 160 pounds. When children reach 16, heights vary from about 5 feet to about 6 feet. Children this age should be close to an adult weight, ranging from 95 to 185 pounds, according to Boston Children's Hospital. This is also the age range when girls' sizes begin to vary more from boys'. At younger ages, girls and boys tend to have very similar ranges of height and weight. For example, at age four, girls are 37 to 42.5 inches and 28 to 44 pounds, while boys are 37.5 to 43 inches and 30 to 44 pounds. However, by age sixteen, girls' typical heights are 60 to 68 inches, while boys are 63 to 73 inches, and girls tend to weigh about 94 to 172 pounds, while boys generally range from 104 to 186 pounds, in keeping with their greater height.

How to Monitor a Baby's Weight Gain

Follow discharge instructions for your baby. Generally, a baby will be discharged from the hospital with a notation of discharge weight. Physicians often recommend taking the baby to a primary care physician or pediatrician between 48 and 72 hours after discharge for a weight check, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Record the baby’s weight, length and head circumference on a growth chart.

Weigh the baby again one week and then two weeks after the initial outpatient visit. By the second week after birth, babies are generally back at or above birth weight and have begun a healthy rate of growth. The average weight gain is 5 to 7 ounces per week for the first few months of life, states the American Pregnancy Association. Babies should gain a minimum of 1/2 ounce per day by 4 or 5 days of age, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Monitor the baby’s wet and soiled diapers. During the first month of life, a newborn should have at least six wet diapers in a 24-hour period and three to four soiled diapers, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. This number may vary somewhat depending on whether your baby is breastfed or formula fed.

Watch your baby for signs of satisfaction and hunger needs being met. After a feed, baby should seem comfortable and satisfied for at least an hour or two as long as the baby received an adequate amount of nourishment. If the baby smacks her lips and cries immediately after the feeding ends, she may still be hungry, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Take the baby back for weight checks as often as recommended by the physician. A baby having weight gain issues may need weighing every week or two. A baby growing according to average rates will probably need a well-baby check-up with a weight check every other month during the first six months, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website.

Tip

The growth chart used by pediatricians to track a baby’s weight gain will plot the baby’s growth on a graph. The physician will enter the baby’s length, weight and head circumference on the chart, according to the Wake Forest Baptist Health website. Some babies grow at faster rates and other babies grow more slowly. Even a slow weight gain can be normal as long as the weight gain establishes a pattern.

Why Is it So Hard to Lose Baby Weight?

Weight Gain During Pregnancy

The recommended weight gain for a woman of normal pre-pregnancy weight is 25 to 35 pounds, states the WebMD website. An overweight woman might gain between 15 and 25 pounds and a woman carrying twins may gain up to 45 pounds. If you gain more than the recommended amount of weight, you may have a harder time losing it all after giving birth. If a year goes by and you haven’t lost all the baby weight, you may be more likely to keep the weight permanently, according to the WebMD website.

Sleep Deprivation

A newborn can be a challenging taskmaster, keeping you up day and night for feedings, diaper changes and other baby activities. If you become sleep deprived as you care for your baby, you may have a harder time losing weight, states the University of Chicago Medicine website. A steady routine of sleepless nights can increase your appetite, especially for high-calorie comfort foods. Just two nights of sleep deprivation can be enough to raise hormone levels that trigger hunger. Take naps or go to bed early if you’re fighting sleep deprivation to minimize these hormonal affects.

Breastfeeding Vs. Formula Feeding

Breastfeeding can be a natural boost in postpartum weight loss. If you choose to formula feed instead of breastfeed your baby, you may notice that you have a harder time losing the baby weight. Breastfeeding mothers often lose more weight than formula-feeding mothers between postpartum months three and six, states the La Leche League International website. In addition, breastfeeding mothers often weigh less than formula-feeding mothers at one month postpartum.

Patience

Sometimes losing the baby weight just takes time and patience. The University of Rochester Medical Center cautions new mothers that postpartum weight loss should not be a crash or restrictive process. Instead, losing weight gradually will enable you to heal from the birth, produce milk for your baby if you are breastfeeding and have enough energy to complete daily responsibilities. It can also be challenging to fit exercise time into a busy postpartum schedule. It may help to choose activities you can perform with your baby, such as walking with a stroller or with your baby in a front carrier.

Normal Infant Weight Gain

First Week

Full-term babies generally weigh between 6 and 9 pounds. Factors affecting this difference can depend on genetics, the mother’s health and nutrition, multiple births and even gender. Expect water weight loss within the first week -- around 5 percent for babies who are formula-fed and up to 10 percent for babies who are breastfed. By the first two-week doctor's visit, your newborn should be back to his birth weight.

Premature infants may fall into “low birth weight” classification, which simply means they weigh less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Any baby weighing less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces is labeled “very low birth weight” and receives immediate medical attention in a neonatal unit. Premature babies may take up to 3 weeks to regain weight lost after birth, according to KidsHealth.org.

0 to 6 Months

Within your baby’s first six months, you should see a weekly weight gain of 5 to 7 ounces, averaging around 2.2 pounds per month for the first three months, and 1.1 pounds per month after that, according to charts at KidsGrowth.com. By the time your little one is 5 months old, the scale should show double his birth weight. Around 4 to 5 months, his growth pattern may change, depending on whether your child is formula-fed or breastfed. Be sure your doctor is aware of your child’s feeding method.

6 to 12 Months

The World Health Organization reports that the normal weight for 6-month-old girls ranges from 13 to 20 pounds, while boys range from 14 to 21 1/2 pounds. From this point, you'll see a gain of 3 to 5 ounces per week. By the time your baby blows out his first birthday candles, he should be around triple the weight of the day he was born, according to Dr. Jay Hoecker at MayoClinic.com.

Considerations

Don’t be surprised if you have a ravenous baby at 7 to 10 days, 3 weeks and 6 weeks of age, suggests KidsHealth.org. These time intervals mark normal growth spurts, when you tend to see a more rapid weight gain. If your baby’s weight drops significantly from one doctor's visit to another, or if she is not gaining weight from infancy, she may be labeled as “failure to thrive.” MayoClinic.com notes that pediatricians monitor any decline in weight but may not be overly concerned, unless the infant has not gained weight in 3 months. In general, if you do not have infant scale at home and are anxious to monitor your baby’s health, search for other clues, such as the number of wet and dirty diapers per day, alertness during awake periods and contentment after feeding.

Signs & Symptoms of Poor Weight Gain in Newborns

Alertness and Disposition

A baby who is not gaining weight properly can become sleepy and uninterested in his surroundings, according to the Kids Health website. Your baby might refuse to maintain eye contact with you, become excessively fussy and irritable, and not seem satisfied for long after a feeding. If the poor weight gain continues, you might notice your baby failing to meet average developmental milestones such as sitting, crawling and walking.

Diapers

The number of diapers your baby soils can be an excellent indication of whether a baby is getting adequate nutrition. By 1 week of age, your baby should be producing between five and seven wet diapers every day and a minimum of three to four soiled diapers. However, although formula-fed babies might produce fewer soiled diapers.

Scale

Babies should be gaining a minimum of one-half ounce each day by 4 or 5 days of age, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Generally, a baby should have regained weight to reach the birth weight by two to three weeks after birth. In addition, a physician might consider a baby’s weight gain to be poor if the baby does not gain at least 1 pound each month for the first four months of life.

Plotting Weight Gain

Physicians record and plot an infant’s weight and height on a growth curve. The World Health Organization curve is the recommended curve for infants, according to Boston Children’s Hospital. An important clue about poor weight gain will be the child’s growth as plotted on the curve. By checking the data, the physician can discern a pattern of growth to see whether the child is following the same percentile. For example, even if a child is only in the 10th percentile, as long as the child remains consistently in this percentile, the growth might be acceptable because of the pattern. Conversely, if a child was in the 75th percentile but then suddenly drops to the 25th percentile, this indicates growth issues that need exploring.

Ideal weight calculators for children

Calculators

A baby growth calculator provides information on a baby's weight percentile based on their age. The calculations provide doctors and parents the information based on where your child falls weight-wise compared to other infants the same age. The body mass index calculator determines the body mass index for children ages 2 to 20. Girl's develop differently and faster than boys, so the charts are different for both sexes. To correctly identify the body mass index, you must first weight the child correctly.

How to Use the Infant Calculator

Infants grow fast the first 24 months of their life. The infant calculator takes information such as the sex of the child, birth date and their current weight. Once these numbers are recorded, doctors can reference the chart and place the numbers, determining the percentage of the individual child. The final calculation will give parents an understanding of where their child fits weight-wise compared to other infants of the same sex and age frame.

Using the BMI Calculator

The BMI calculator works for children ages 3 to 20. Using a digital scale rather than a spring loaded scale will provide a more precise reading when obtaining weight. Remove all heavy items -- shoes, wallet and heavy sweaters -- prior to weighing. Measure the child's height by standing the child up against a wall barefoot. Form a right angle with the wall using some type of object above the child's head to obtain the correct height. The weight measurement is then added to the height measurement in inches and again add the height measurement in inches with finally multiplying that number by 703. Use the end result to place onto the percentile chart for either sex.

Benefits of Weight Calculations in Children

Knowing your child's ideal weight according to the charts provided by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention will allow parents and physicians to monitor the types of eating habits that their children have. Overweight children can experience health risks such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and asthma. Being overweight can effect a child's self-esteem, which can lead to poor grades in school and social problems as they get older. If a child is underweight, there may be a health condition or eating disorder that needs to be addressed before it does permanent damage to the child.

The Normal Weight for 13 Year Olds

Height to Weight Ratio

A standard chart used by paediatricians says a 13-year-old boy should weigh between 38.6 and 45.4 Kilogram and a 13-year-old girl should be between 43.1 and 45.4 Kilogram. These weight recommendations are based on assumptions that the average height for a boy is 58 to 62 inches, and the average for a girl is 60 to 63 inches. These figures should be regarded as estimates because they do not take into account a young person's previous growth patterns and actual height. Some 13 year olds are well into puberty, whereas others are just starting their adolescent growth spurt.

Figuring Out BMI

The BMI is a calculation that determines a person's percentage of body fat based upon both height and weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an online calculator that allows anyone to type in their gender, height and weight and see their BMI percentage. Separate versions are available for children and teens as well as adults. For example, a 13-year-old boy who weighs 59 Kilogram and stands 5 feet 6 inches tall would have a BMI of 21 per cent, which is considered to be within a normal range. A high BMI means a high concentration of body fat. Healthy readings for both adults and youngsters are between 18.5 and 24.9 per cent.

Family Influence

Genetics and family lifestyles are key contributors to a teenager's weight. Some ethnic groups have specific distributions of body fat, meaning they carry their weight in different parts of their bodies in response to their places of origin. That heritage can have bearing on a person's weight blueprint generations later. Also, a 13 year old's eating habits often are passed on to him by his parents, so that a youngster with a healthy BMI may be eating lots of fresh produce and other wholesome foods. The same teenager is likely to engage in outdoor activities, while another 13 year old may evidence a higher BMI because her family consumes high-calorie snacks and seldom exercises.

Paediatrician

For many reasons, parents should consult a paediatrician when determining whether a 13-year-old son or daughter is at a normal weight. It is typical for adolescent girls, for example, to experience fluctuations in their weight and BMIs. But the doctor and parents need to ensure that such swings are not symptoms of a more serious underlying condition, such as diabetes or an eating disorder. Weight charts and body mass indexes serve as overall guidelines, but paediatricians can provide insight into the specific factors that may be affecting your teenager's development.

Healthy Habits

As useful as the BMI and the paediatrician's input are, parents and young teens need to look past the numbers. In order to maintain a normal body weight, it's important to develop healthy eating habits and stay physically active.

Helping a Teen Gain Weight

Muscle Growth

To gain weight, your teen shouldn't aim to put on fat. She should aim to build muscle, which will increase her body weight, while helping her look toned and active. Teens can start an active exercise program, including weightlifting, according to HealthyChildren.org, the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you're a fitness buff yourself, you can teach your teen how to lift safely. Otherwise, you might spring for a family membership to a gym, along with personal training. You can all get healthy together.

Extra Calories

In order to gain weight healthfully, your teen will need additional calories. Safe weight gain is about 1 to 2 pounds per week, according to HealthyChildren.org, which should come from adding about 300 or 400 calories a day. If your child is also exercising a lot, he might need to eat even more. Help him achieve his calorie goals by buying healthful high-calorie foods for him to eat.

Frequent Meals

To get these extra calories, it's helpful to eat meals more frequently. This can be difficult for a teen who's at school all day and who participates in extracurricular activities. Ensure that your teen eats a healthful breakfast, and send her with extra snacks for after school if she's not coming home. Eating five to nine times a day is ideal for weight gain, according to HealthyChildren.org.

Boosting Calories Healthfully

It's important that the extra calories your child is eating are healthful calories. You don't necessarily want him eating an extra two candy bars each day. Instead, choose full-fat versions of milk, cheese and yogurt. Add healthful fats such as peanut butter and olive oil to his foods. Drinking breakfast or protein shakes along with a meal is another way to boost caloric intake.