Q&A; is my 3-year-old fat?

Frequent commenter Carla writes:

I just got back from my 3 year old daughter’s well-child check up.
Doctor said she looks great.  Just for kicks, I looked up her
height/weight percentiles and BMI — and discover that, at 37.5 inches,
and 37.5 pounds, BMI 18.8, she is overweight???  At those stats, she is
over the 95th percentile weight and about the 6oth height.  Her weight
percentiles have ranged widely in her life, from 50th at birth, to
about 15th at 1 year, to 60th at 2 years.  I am 5-3, 120 lbs, my
husband 5-8, 160, so we’re not big people.

I think we eat pretty healthy in our house, though I could
probably push the fruits/veggies more as snacks than things like
pretzels and goldfish.  She does get some desserts, but not lots of
candy/sweets, and no juice (just doesn’t like it).  Like many toddlers,
she likes things like macaroni and cheese, quesadillas, chicken
tenders, etc etc more than spinach and broccoli, but I try.  She is
quite picky and I get tired of making things she won’t eat so maybe I
am giving her too much starch?  She is very active and gets lots of
time running around at the park and preschool, though no organized
sports (she is 3, after all). 

Now, she doesn’t seem particularly petite to me, but I certainly
wouldn’t call her fat, either.  More to the point, how much should I
worry about this?  I don’t want to give her a complex — but nor do I
want her to get off to a bad start in life.  Help!"

At 3 she’s still growing, and all the height and weight stuff is still evening out. You can’t really pay attention to the charts, since they don’t take into account all the stuff that’s unique to your family and to her.

I have one who was almost off the charts for weight at around that age, but this is what I focused on instead to figure out if he was healthy:

1. What he ate. Was he getting a range of vitamins? Halfway decent variety? Enough good fat? Not too much sugar? He was fine, although probably ate a few too many bagels over the course of a month. It sounds like you’ve got the diet covered as much as anyone can at this age. It’s relaly hard to go low starch with toddlers.

2. How much exercise he gets. Mine ran around constantly. It sounds like your daughter does, too.Perfect.

3. How his mood was. If his energy was good, he was sleeping decently, and he wasn’t having unusual behavior (spacey) or angry outburts he couldn’t seem to control (both those things can be signs of bad reactions to things he’s eating)  then things were OK. It sounds like there are no problems like this with your daughter.

Forget about the charts for right now. My bet is that this time next year you’ll be wondering if she’s too skinny.

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