chubby baby in red overalls flickr / Angel Kittiyachavalit
Baby Fat

How To Tell If Your Toddler Is Chubby, Overweight, Or Obese

Even renaissance artists knew that chubby kids are cute as hell. That’s why all those old painting are so lousy with floaty, winged-bambinos. Chubby kids are squishy, cuddly and also happen to be really easy to chase down. Unless they actually happen to be cherubs, in which case you’re going to need a net. And some solid reflexes.

You might think your toddler’s pudge makes them perfect for an oil paint rendering. But you may also wonder if it’s healthy. Wonder no more. Here’s how to figure out if your kid’s perfect or unhealthily obese.

Fat Kid Issues

First, you’re probably not the best at making judgement calls about your kid’s weight. Or at least your partner isn’t.

A 2012 study from the University of Maryland showed that 94 percent of moms with overweight toddlers didn’t realize their kids were too big. Considering how willing she is to put up with your dad bod that’s not terribly surprising. Still, you’re going to need a diagnostic solution beside eyeballing them.

And understanding if your kid is too big is pretty important. Failing to recognize that your kid is overweight, and continuing to feed them inappropriately, can set them up for a lifetime of weight struggles. Which you know from your battle with the kettlebells every day. Week? Screw it, let’s go get a beer.

Measuring Up

The one surefire tool you want to use to determine if your kid is overweight is their Body Mass Index (BMI). There is some controversy about the effectiveness of BMI in adults, but it’s particularly effective in kids around 2 years of age because their weight is not as affected by muscle mass. Unlike you with those massive quads, bro.

The reason muscle mass would be otherwise problematic is because BMI is a calculation based on weight and height. That means, of course, that you’ll need accurate measurements of both of those things, which are happily provided at your pediatrician’s office.

Now here’s where you get to take a deep breath. A kid is not considered overweight if they land anywhere between the 5th and 85th percentile on a BMI chart. That’s a big target (no pun intended this time). And it should be because development at this age changes things super quickly.


Next Steps

If your kid is above the 85th percentile (overweight) or the 95th (obese), it’s important not to freak out and start restricting your kid’s diet. Not only will it turn them into a wreck and make your life hell, it’s not generally a good idea to make sudden changes to a child’s diet.

It’s far more important to make gradual changes in both diet and exercise. Which is to say less sugary juices and processed food and more outdoor play. More than that, as a dad, you can show your kid how to eat and play. Because it doesn’t matter if they look like Michelangelo’s David or David Michelangelo (He was that pudgy kid in second grade. Always brought in meatball subs? You don’t remember him?) — as long as they’re healthy.