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Am I Too Fat or Too Thin?

TV shows, movies and magazines show pictures of people who are thin. Does that mean being thin is the "right" size? Not necessarily–the "right size" is the weight that's healthiest for your body type and individual size.

If you are too thin, you may be eating less food than your body needs. Eating food is like putting fuel in a car–if you've ever ridden in a car that runs out of gas, you know what happens: it stops working! You need the right fuel to grow, to feel good about yourself and your friends, and to do well in school and at play. Kids who are underweight may become sick more often than their friends. Your body can't fight off germs if you don't eat enough.

Overeating can cause problems, too. Weighing too much makes it hard for your body to work right. For example, it can be hard to keep up with your friends on the playground. Kids who are overweight might not be getting the right nutrition and might have health problems like not breathing right or sleeping well. And it's not always easy to find clothes that fit.

Being underweight or overweight can cause problems in school. For example, if your stomach is growling because you skipped breakfast, it's hard to focus on what the teacher is saying. Or, if you eat too much for lunch, it's hard to stay awake during afternoon classes. Read on to find out more about body size and kids.

What Makes Me Too Fat or Too Thin?
Some people think that your weight is determined only by how much you eat. That's just part of it. Your weight also is affected by how much physical activity you get. Suppose you spend most of your free time watching TV. Your body doesn't need or burn as many calories as it would if you played volleyball, skated or went for a walk instead.

But remember, people naturally are different shapes and sizes. Both big kids and small kids might be just right based on the type of body they have and what their parents look like. It's not "good" or "bad" to be a certain weight, just like it's not "good" or "bad" to be a certain height. It's just that being too thin or too fat is not healthy. So, it's important to take care of your body by being active and eating right. When your body is healthy, you look and feel good, too!

What Should I Do if I Think I'm Overweight or Underweight?
First, talk to your mom, dad or another adult you trust like a grandparent or your school guidance counselor. They might help you change your eating and exercise habits. Or your parents might take you to a doctor or registered dietitian (RD).

Next, look at ways that you can change your weight. The good news is that you do not have to make big changes! In fact, scientists have discovered that one of the best ways to get to a healthy weight is to make small changes over time.

For example, if you are overweight, just 10 minutes of exercise three times a day can make a difference. There are lots of ways to be active: dancing, yard work, running, swimming, martial arts classes and team sports (like basketball or volleyball)–even walking around the mall. Exercise doesn't have to be dull–you can make it fun. Walk your dog in the morning, jump rope at noon and shoot hoops or ride your bike after school.

If you're underweight, adding some cheese to your lunchtime turkey sandwich, munching some nuts and raisins after school and winding down with a bedtime snack like peanut butter on a banana can help you gain weight in a healthy way.

Following MyPyramid can help you make healthy food choices. And remember, even if you are underweight, exercise is still a great way to get energy and feel good!

When Should I Visit a Doctor or Registered Dietitian?
Your mom or dad might take you to visit your doctor or a registered dietitian (RD). They can help if you think you need to change your weight. They have charts that show the healthy weight ranges for kids of every age and height, so you can know for sure if you are the right weight for your body type and age.

A doctor or registered dietitian can help you and your family make healthy food choices, understand how much food to eat and improve habits like how much physical activity you get.

Tips to Be at a Healthy Weight

  • Know the right weight range for your age, body type and size. That's where checking with an adult and seeing a doctor or registered dietitian (RD) can help!
  • Be physically active every day. Try to buddy up with a friend or relative. Maybe you can walk to school together every morning instead of riding the bus.
  • Fuel your body with the right amount of food to keep your muscles, bones and brain cells growing and working right.
  • Understand your eating habits. Do you eat because you are hungry or because you are just bored, angry or sad? If you eat because of the way you feel, try doing something else that makes you happy. If you're bored, try doing something active like skating or walking. If you can't eat because of your feelings, talk it over with an adult you trust, like your mom or dad or a school guidance counselor.

Learn more:
Being You is a Beautiful Thing!
Should Kids Go on a Diet to Lose Weight?

Reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Panel, 2006