TV shows, movies, and magazines show pictures of people who are thin. Does that mean being thin is best? Not necessarily.
People come in all different shapes and sizes, and the best weight for you is one that is right for your individual body type and size. It can be unhealthy to be too thin if you are eating less food than your body needs. Eating enough food is like putting gas in your car — if you run out of gas, it stops working!
Being overweight is not good either. Kids who are overweight may not be getting the right nutrition if the food they eat has a lot of fat and calories without the other nutrients needed to stay healthy and strong.
Everyone needs to eat a healthy, balanced diet to grow, to fight off infections, to do well in school and at play, and to just feel good. Eating a variety of healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, is the best way to go. It puts high-quality fuel in your tank so you are ready to go.
So read on to find out how you'll know what the right weight is for you.
What Makes Me the Weight I Am?
There's no easy answer to this question. Your genetic makeup (the physical traits that get passed down to you from your parents) plays a big part in determining your size and weight.
The same goes for your body type. Have you ever heard someone say a person is "big boned"? It's a way of saying the person has a large frame, or skeleton. Big bones usually weigh more than small bones. That's why it's possible for two kids with the same height, but different weights, to both be the right weight.
Like your height or body type, your genes have a lot to say about what your weight will be. But that's only part of the story. Being overweight can run in someone's family, but it may not be because of their genes. Poor eating and exercise habits also run in families and this may be the reason the members of a family are overweight.
And even though some kids gain weight more easily than others, when they eat right and exercise, most kids can be a healthy and happy weight that's right for them. It's true — the way you live can change the way you look.
How much you weigh is a balance between the calories you eat and the calories you use. If you eat more calories than your body needs to use, you will gain too much weight. If you spend your free time watching TV, your body won't use as many calories as it would if you played basketball, skated, or went for a walk.
If you are in balance, your weight will stay right for you as you grow. But if you eat more and exercise less, you may become overweight. On the other hand, if you eat less and exercise more, you may lose weight.
What if I Don't Think My Weight Is the Right Weight?
First, talk to your mom or dad, who might be able to talk to you about healthy eating and exercise. Next, look at ways that can help you get to the right weight for you. Even small changes can get you moving in the right direction. For example, if you are overweight, just 10 minutes of exercise three times a day can make a difference.
There are many ways to stay active: team sports (like basketball or volleyball), self-defense classes, dancing, yard work, running, swimming — even walking around the mall or playing outside. Make exercise fun by choosing activities you like. Walk your dog in the morning, play hopscotch at noon, and help your mom garden in the evening.
You also can talk with your doctor about your body mass index (BMI). That's a way of using your height and weight to estimate how much body fat you have, but remember that BMI isn't the whole story. You should talk with a doctor before deciding that you are overweight or underweight.
Most Lightweight Kids Are Fine
Most kids who weigh less than other kids their age usually are just fine — they don't need to force themselves to eat extra food if they aren't hungry for it. Remember, a lower weight may be the right weight for someone who is shorter than average.
The bodies of many underweight kids are just growing and changing on a slower time schedule and they often catch up later on as teens.
A few kids may be underweight because of health problems. If you or your parents are concerned about this, have your parents talk to your doctor.
If you're underweight, it's still important to make healthy food choices. And exercise is still a great idea, especially exercise that builds strong muscles!
When Should I Visit a Doctor or Dietitian?
With your parent's advice, there are a lot of ways you can make changes on your own. But if you need extra help, ask your mom or dad about talking with a doctor or registered dietitian (RD). They have charts that show the healthy weight ranges for kids of every age and height, so you they can help you find out if you are the right weight.
You also can learn about healthy foods. MyPlate shows the variety of foods your body needs. For your muscles, bones, and brain cells to grow and work properly, eat healthy foods from the major food groups:
- grains (make half your grains whole grains)
- protein (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dry beans, nuts, and seeds)
- dairy products (low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt)
When you and your parent visit a doctor or dietitian, you can learn how to make healthier food choices and improve habits like how much exercise you get. The entire family can work together on developing a healthier lifestyle.
Tips for Kids About Weight
Staying at a healthy weight means:
- Knowing what the right weight is for your age, height, and body type (that's where checking with an adult and seeing a doctor or dietitian can help).
- Fueling your body with the right amount of foods that are good for you. With proper nutrition, you can grow, play, do well in school, and feel good about yourself.
- Exercising daily for strong muscles, strong bones, and a healthy heart.
Don't worry about what your friends weigh. Instead, work on being the right weight for you. It's not necessarily "good" to be thin or "bad" to weigh more, just like it's not "good" to be taller or "bad" to be shorter.
If you are not at a healthy weight, start making small changes to achieve your goal. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise will help get you where you want to be.