Things about BMI every parent must know

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Is your child overweight? Or is she too thin? Read on to find out more about Body Mass Index and how to calculate it.

25 years ago when I was a kid, my mum had a hard time locating me on the playground in the evening. We rarely needed any 'props' like Playstations to play with our friends, and we used to improvise with whatever we had! Needless to say, My mother had never heard of BMI or knew what to do with it.

When I look around today, I find that an average child from an urban home in Mumbai owns more electronics than I do, as an adult! This has contributed to a sedentary lifestyle to a great extent. Add processed food to the mix and it is a recipe for childhood obesity. I am sure that this is the story everywhere in India.

But is there any harm if your child is a bit on the 'healthy' side? How do you assess his weight meaningfully? Here are some frequently asked questions about Body Mass Index (BMI).

What is Body Mass Index?

Simply put, it is how the weight is distributed in your body.

It is calculated my dividing the weight in kilogrammes by the square of the height in meters. It is a type of weight-for-height measurement, but with better applications. So if you know the weight of your child and the height you can easily calculate your child's BMI using this online calculator.

As boys and girls grow differently and have growth spurts at different ages, the interpretation of results differs according to age and gender.

But the result talks about percentiles. What is a percentile?

A Percentile is a bit different from the percentage. Imagine that there are 100 children in your kid's classroom. All of them have the same height and age!

Let us arrange them so that their BMIs are from the highest to the least. So, if Suresh's BMI is maximum at 33, he would be at the top of the list. Ramesh, a scrawny kid, has the least BMI in his class, with a BMI of 14.5.

So, Suresh's BMI would be at 100 percentile, and Ramesh's BMI would be at 1 percentile. Simply put, if we arrange the values from most to least for a given set and then divide it into a hundred pieces, the maximum would be a 100 percentile, and least would be 1 percentile.

The BMI for calculations take into account a range of weights for that height and age and gives you a percentile. If you find the BMI outside the normal range, you should take action.

Read on to find out more about BMI

The BMI percentile is high, what should I do?

Well, you should take it seriously.

Childhood obesity is real. In an analysis of published studies from 1981 to 2013, about 1 in 5 children in India suffers from obesity. This has increased from the previous figure of 1 in 6.

Childhood obesity often leads to obesity in the adulthood. It is associated not only with physical problems, but the psychological problems like low self-esteem harm the growing child even more.

The good news is, it can be corrected early. Changes in the diet and introduction of exercises will help your child lose those extra kilos and help him feel fitter.

One thing you need to do is, teach your child about food. Educate him about a balanced diet and why he needs to balance the nutrients.

My child eats a lot, but his BMI percentile is low. What should I do?

Well, the range of acceptable BMIs is 5 to 90 percentile. So, if he falls in the 25th percentile, you should not worry. As long as he is growing properly, displays a healthy appetite, is playful and interacts well with other children, be happy.

ALWAYS feed your child a balanced diet. Don't increase ghee in his diet just to increase his weight. That will do more harm than good.

The state of malnourishment is real. The problem of childhood obesity is increasing, and would not stop till you as a parent would not take corrective actions. Track the BMI of the child at least twice a year to know early if any corrective steps are needed.

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(Image courtesy: IBtimes.co.in)

Written by

Anay Bhalerao

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