The CDC Says Children in the 95th Percentile Are Obese. I Call BS On That!

A little over a month ago, while driving in my car listening to National Public Radio (NPR), I heard a discussion on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's stance on childhood obesity. The comment was made that, Children in the 95th percentile according to the CDC Growth Charts, were considered to be obese. My ears perked up immediately, because my son has been in the 95th percentile, or "off the charts," his ENTIRE LIFE! I was not only concerned about my son being labeled, Obese, I was concerned that his pediatrician had not said anything about this yet. Being the ever dutiful and over protective mother, I made it a point to talk with my son's pediatrician, the first chance I got! 

He is not even 2 1/2 years-old! He is a big strong awesome toddler!
Not obese!?! 

Before I get on to my conversation with the pediatrician, here is a little background on what prompted the conversation... According the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

A child's weight status is determined using an age- and sex-specific percentile for BMI rather than the BMI categories used for adults, because children's body composition varies as they age and varies between boys and girls.
CDC Growth Charts are used to determine the corresponding BMI-for-age and sex percentile. For children and adolescents (aged 2—19 years):
  • Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.1
  • Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.1
Immediately, I called bullshit. My son is not obese, he is just big for his age! He has always been a large kid, both in terms of weight and height. I nursed him exclusively "on demand" until he was six-months, then when the time came to incorporate solid foods, I prepared most all of his meals, or spent a ridiculous amount of money on the preservative free all-natural organic baby food.  My kid was at or above the 95th percentile in both height and weight through it all.

Then, at around 8-months old, my son was constantly hungry.  I nursed around the clock, and fed him protein, veggie and fruit loaded meals daily. Again, we found him to be on top of the chart. My doctor at that point did say to take his food away when I thought he was full, then if he yelled, give it back.  I tried that, ahas expected, my son yelled. Then at his 12-month check-up, we found he had sprouted nearly three inches. THREE!! The poor little guy was hungry because he was growing.  At that point, I threw all concerns out; My son was healthy, happy and eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies and proteins, and that was all that mattered!

A little more background, my body type is athletic. I am strong and sturdy, but being the girl that I am, I always "struggled" with my weight. I was never really over weight, I just always wanted to be thiner. As for FTD... Let me say this, on one of our last visits to the OB/GYN before Ollie was born, my doctor told us that every time we left the office, the doctors would joke about how it was a good thing I was having a c-section, due to of the span of FTD's shoulders.  My super sexy husband is the guy who looks like he has been at the gym all day, when really, he has been sitting on his ass. He has a great body type, and no matter how much crap he eats, he still looks great. Yes, I hate that too!

Like Father, Like Son
It's clear to us and our pediatrician, Ollie has inherited FTD's build. Ollie is a brick shit house that has been lifting his own body weight, with ease, since the days of tummy time.  MY KID IS NOT OBESE! He is who he is, a big strong toddler!

Finally, the opportunity presented itself to discuss the CDC's stance on obesity with Ollie's pediatrician. I told him all that had I heard and read, and he said this to me:

When it comes to infants to toddlers, the charts are just a range, and that's it! We judge obesity in young children by health. Is your kid in the 95th percentile because he is strong, and tall and eating healthy foods? Then, your child is not obese.  Is your child in the 95th percentile because he is kind of tall, clearly overweight and eating all of the wrong foods? Then, there would be cause for concern.  In Ollie's case, no he is most certainly NOT obese. HOWEVER! If you take him home and feed him fried foods, salty snacks and sugary drinks, then your son will be 'unhealthy', and that carries many more concerns then the label of obesity. It's important that you focus on your son's diet more than numbers. He is a great kid, feed him great food.

I mentioned that I was having trouble getting Ollie to eat his vegetables and some fruits. His doctor said to try the following three things:

1. Serve a plate that is 2/3 fruits and veggies and 1/3 protein.
2. It can take up to 10 times to get a kid to eat a certain fruit or veggie, so don't give up serving it up.
3. Get creative: hide veggies in sauces and fruits in smoothies.

Kids, will eventually try anything, but if all they are given are their favorites--chicken and french fries-- then they are missing out on a world of healthy and yummy foods. I'll admit, it took me a while to learn this with Ollie. I knew he liked pasta, so he ate it at least once a day. Now, I know he will not starve. I serve a little of something I know he likes, and then at least two veggie, fruit or grain selections at each meal. I want a healthy kid, and at only two-years old, that is 100% a reflection on the nutrition and opportunity for activity I provide him.

Parents, if you heard that story on the CDC's stance on Childhood Obesity, don't let it get to you, you know your child, their diet, body type and health. Or at the very least, talk to your doctor before starving your child. Let them be, and grow into the healthful adolescents they need to be. Focus on their health, not on the numbers. They are wonderful kids, feed them wonderful foods.

  1. Barlow SE and the Expert Committee. Expert committee recommendations regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of child and adolescent overweight and obesity: summary report.Pediatrics 2007;120 Supplement December 2007:S164—S192.

April is an award-winning writer and blogger. Her work has been published in over ten countries and four languages. From books to newspapers, to print/online magazines and everything in between, you can find her work. For more on April, Visit