While weight gain is an expected part of childhood development, disproportionate and excessive weight gain in children can potentially lead to several health risks. In these cases, it’s important to address why the child is gaining weight fast to avoid what can be a lifelong battle with excess pounds and chronic diseases.

As such, in this article, our pediatric endocrinology specialists in Miami will talk about childhood weight gain and the ways parents and experts can address the problem of pediatric obesity. 

Children and Gaining Weight: When is Too Much Too Much? 

Girl Child Overweight Holding a Green Apple and a Hamburger

Children gain weight, as it is a normal part of growth and development. When parents take their child to their pediatrician, experts will measure their weight, height, and BMI (body mass index) and will compare it with the average numbers on the CDC growth charts for your child’s age group.

More specifically, these charts compare your child’s measurements to other kids of the same gender and age in the country. 

In a typical growth chart, a child’s height and weight percentiles are expected to align, meaning that a child positioned on the 50th percentile for height should also correspond to the 50th percentile for weight. When a child’s weight percentile begins to increase beyond their height percentile progressively, it raises a significant red flag, as this trend may indicate a heightened risk of the child developing overweight or childhood obesity.

When assessing a child’s body mass index (BMI), the pediatrician typically examines whether it falls within certain percentile ranges to gauge their health status. A BMI below the 85th percentile is indicative of a healthy BMI. If the child’s BMI falls between the 85th and 94.9th percentiles, they are classified as overweight. However, if their BMI surpasses the 95th percentile, it signifies the presence of childhood obesity. These BMI percentiles serve as valuable indicators of a child’s weight relative to their age and height, aiding in the assessment of their overall health.

Medical Causes for Excessive Weight Gain in Children

If the child’s body mass indicates that they are overweight or even obese, their pediatrician may recommend further tests to rule out any medical causes for the child gaining weight fast. Typically, they will start by reviewing the child’s familial medical history to rule out any causes of genetic origins and will also review the child’s medications. 

Family History

Regarding family history, parents may be asked the following questions:

  • Does any family member have issues with their blood pressure, thyroid, or diabetes?
  • May ask about the parents’ weight when the mother became pregnant.
  • Ask about the child’s birth weight.
  • Whether the mom smoked during the pregnancy
  • Whether there were any pregnancy complications such as hypertension or gestational diabetes.
  • Was the child formula- or breastfed? 


In some cases, the child’s medications contribute to rapid weight gain. In these cases, the excess weight is usually a side effect of:

  • Steroids
  • Medications that address anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
  • Hormones (for instance, some birth control pills).

If it’s determined that the child is gaining weight fast because of these medications, parents should still consult with their child’s primary care physician or pediatrician before the medication is discontinued.  


There may also be several rare genetic causes behind excessive weight gain in children. In the case of pediatric obesity, healthcare experts will want to rule out the following genetic conditions:

  • Alstrom syndrome, which is a form of heart disease, potentially weakens and enlarges the heart muscles. The condition may often lead to diabetes and obesity. 
  • Choen syndrome. A hereditary disorder that may lead to developmental delays, intellectual disabilities, and weak muscle tone. 
  • Bardet-Beidl syndrome, which is a rare genetic condition. It’s present at birth, affecting the infant’s vision and kidney functions. The latter may lead to pediatric obesity.
  • Congenital hypothyroidism. In these cases, thyroid functions are either partially or completely lost, affecting the child from birth.
  • Prader-Willi syndrome which disrupts the normal function of the hypothalamus, leading to irregular body temperature, hunger, emotions, and sleeping patterns. 

Many of these health conditions are typically identified during the early stages of infancy, although they are quite uncommon. Nevertheless, it remains essential for your child’s pediatrician or healthcare provider to systematically eliminate the possibility of these conditions when investigating the underlying causes of your child’s weight gain. Thorough evaluation and assessment are crucial to identify and address any potential health concerns promptly.

What If There Are No Medical Conditions Behind The Rapid Weight Gain? 

Although certain instances of childhood obesity may be attributable to genetic or medical factors, others can be linked to dietary choices and levels of physical activity. The development of obesity in children may be influenced by factors such as the composition of their diet, the timing of their meals, the environment in which they consume food, and the quantity of food they consume.

When assessing a child experiencing weight-related concerns, a thorough evaluation involves asking both the parent and the child about the following:

  • Dietary habits: For example, does the child eat breakfast regularly?
  • Does the child bring their lunch to school or buy it there?
  • Does the child have dinner at home, at a restaurant, or in other places (in the car, for example)?
  • Does the family prepare their meals together and eat it together? 

Combating Pediatric Obesity

There are several strategies parents can implement that will make a significant difference immediately. For instance, caregivers and parents may consider the following at-home approaches:

  • Limiting screen time.
  • Sitting down for dinner together as a family at least once every week.
  • Limit eating out.
  • Refrain from the use of electronic devices while eating.
  • Parents should also model good eating habits and behavior.
  • Remove candy bowls and unhealthy snacks from plain sight and replace them with healthy options, such as fruits.
  • Eat breakfast together.
  • Use smaller bowls and plates.
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages and limit the amounts your child consumes.

The Complications of Pediatric Obesity 

Overweight Boy Consulting With Doctor in Office

If the weight gain continues, it can lead to several other metabolic and orthopedic issues, such as: 

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • metabolic syndrome
  • Pre-diabetes
  • Insulin resistance
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gallstones
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Kidney stones

It’s imperative to remember that these conditions are treatable if developed, and some of them are even reversible through an effective weight-loss regimen.

If You Need Expert Help

Numerous strategies exist to assist your child in managing their weight and enhancing their overall health. It is crucial to foster an environment in which your child feels supported, understood, and not isolated. One significant step is to identify a competent pediatrician who can guide you in this journey. Furthermore, engaging in healthy dietary choices and physical activities alongside your child can be highly beneficial. 

Consistency is paramount in adopting a healthier lifestyle and having a supportive and encouraging network is instrumental in achieving these goals.

That said, if you would like to learn more about different weight loss strategies or want to learn more about plans tailored to address your child’s specific needs, feel free to contact us today.