NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Obesity in children has become so common, about one in every five children, that we might not recognize what a normal body weight should be.

“So, nationwide we talk about childhood obesity and being overweight the national rate is around 31% a little over that actually,” said Dr. Michelle Jowdy with Riverside Health System’s Brentwood Practice.

Dr. Jowdy opens parents eyes by showing them the growth charts. A Body Mass Index (BMI) that puts a child in a BMI-for-age percentile between 85% and 95% is overweight; above 95% is obese. For example, a 10-year-old boy with a BMI of 21 would be in the overweight category. You can easily figure this out with the BMI calculator, using your child’s height and weight.

In Newport News, where Dr. Jowdy practices, the demographic is at higher risk.

“We definitely have families who are at or below the poverty line and so access to healthy food is hard . Access to exercising, being in a neighborhood where you feel safe enough to go out and exercise, can be a problem,” she explained.

This she said, leads to bigger problems such as high blood pressure, early onset diabetes, sleep and joint issues. “These are adult problems we are seeing in children; depression, anxiety goes along with those.”

The doctor recommends you:

  • Cut back on eating out and sugary drinks.
  • Get involved in sports.
  • Turn off screens.

This means parents too. She said, “All of these healthy habits come and start from at home.”

If you’re looking for encouragement or a safe space to get active and make changes, Dr. Jowdy’s office is piloting a program called Project Power. It’s a free after school program through the American Diabetes Association that aims to slow childhood obesity through activity, education and health promotion. You can do it in person or online.

To sign up click here.