Are You Underestimating Your Child’s Weight?

As America’s population becomes more and more overweight, people may develop a distorted perception of what is deemed a healthy weight. This is precisely what USA Today reported on when revealing the results from a recent study performed at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

Researchers asked 111 women and 111 children questions about their age, income and body size, and also measured their height and weight. They were asked to identify their body shapes based on silhouettes representing underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obesity. Researchers found that many overweight mothers and their offspring were not as svelte as they thought:

  • 82 percent of obese mothers and 43 percent of overweight mothers underestimated their weight.
  • 86 percent of overweight or obese children underestimated their weight, while only 15 percent of normal-sized kids did.
  • 48 percent of mothers of obese or overweight children thought their children’s weight was normal.
  • 13 percent of normal-weight mothers underestimated their weight.

These findings imply that those who are most affected by obesity are either unaware or underestimate their true weight. The study data show the need for health-care providers to educate patients about the dangers of excess body weight. Strategies to overcome the obesity epidemic will need to address body image misperception.

Parents may not have “weight management” on their minds as they look at their active, yet overweight kids. This is why at Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, parents are educated on identifying overweight children. This is extremely important as overweight children are at risk of developing serious health problems once reserved for adults, like Type II diabetes and heart disease. Early intervention is key, before a child’s nutritional and exercise habits are set and when it’s easier for them to lose weight.

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About This Author

PhotobucketJoanna Dolgoff, M.D. is a Pediatrician, Child Obesity Expert, and Author of Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right (Rodale, 2009). Dr. Dolgoff’s child and adolescent weight loss program ( has been featured on WABC News, WNBC News, Fox 5 Morning Show, My9 News, and WPIX News. She has also filmed pieces with The Today Show and Extra, is an official blogger for the Huffington Post, and is the official doctor for Camp Shane, the nation’s largest weight loss camp. Children from 45 different states are losing weight with Dr. Dolgoff’s online weight loss program (
Dr. Dolgoff attended Princeton University and the NYU School of Medicine and completed her Pediatric Residency at the Columbia Presbyterian Children’s Hospital of New York. She is a Board-Certified Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a former certified fitness instructor. Dr. Dolgoff resides in Roslyn, NY with her husband and two children, ages 4 and 7.

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