Is my child too skinny?
Some kids are all skin and bone, but how skinny is too skinny?
By Scott Dunlop
Nutritionists are known to deal with the complexities of obesity in children, helping them to eat healthily and exercise regularly, but they are also able to help parents who are concerned that their child is too thin. Skinny kids may endure bullying and also the possibility of health problems. Of course, some kids are thinner than others, and a rapid metabolism does not indicate hronic illness or an eating disorder, but if your child has sudddenly lost weight or isn't gaining weight, you should consult your doctor for advice.
When does 'skinny' become a problem?
If you are concerned about your child’s weight, a doctor or nutritionist can assess your child by using several criteria, including:
- Are the parents skinny? A child who is genetically predisposed to being thin is different to a normal or bigger kid who has suddenly stopped gaining weight or suddenly started losing weight.
- Is the child’s weight consistently low, or has she recently lost weight?
- Depending on your child, factors which may influence weight-loss or lack of growth may include infections, food allergies, and intestinal, endocrine, heart, lung, and liver problems. Your child should have a thorough check-up and may need a referral for testing with a specialist.
- What are your child’s eating habits and general health like?
- Has the child recently experienced any medical condition which has led to bouts of vomiting or diarrhoea?
The BMI factorThe doctor will measure your child on growth charts specially designed to take into account rates of growth- a Body Mass Index measurement for an adult is calculated using height and weight as factors, but a child’s BMI formula includes gender and age as factors, too, in order to assess body composition, as this will help to check whether or not your child’s BMI is proportional.
A child who falls below the 5th percentile of the BMI is considered underweight, according to KidsHealth.
Should your child be underweight, the doctor will discuss in detail your child’s eating habits to find out if there may be certain food groups poorly represented. In addition, if your child is eating correctly but losing/not gaining weight, then your doctor will likely run tests to see if there are medical reasons for the weight issue.
Where to from here?
At this point, work with your doctor to figure out an eating plan best suited to your child, including, if necessary, healthy ways of achieving weight-gain. You can help by ensuring your family sits down to eat meals together and including your child in food shopping and preparation. This is a good idea even if your child doesn't have a clinical problem.
Some kids fill up on milk or juice, so limit your child’s juice intake. Excessive juice-drinking may even promote diarrhoea.
Healthy snacks are allowed, so find out which foods will make suitable snacks, and get your nutritionist to recommend brands of healthy shakes (or learn how to make your own).
Whatever you do, don’t try and get your kid to bulk up on junk food, and make sure you’re sensitive about his feelings when it comes to discussing his weight.
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Have you ever had concerns that your child is too skinny?