Curiosity about your weight and the way your body looks usually starts at a young age because we live in a society that tends to get very caught up in physical appearance. The truth is, weight is not the best measurement of health and is definitely not in any way a measurement of worth.
For example, a 12-year old boy at 58 inches tall (4 foot 10 inches) would be considered a ‘normal’ or healthy weight between 72 and 100 pounds (33 to 45 kg). A 12-year old girl at 59 inches tall (4 foot 11 inches) would be considered a healthy weight between 74 and 107 pounds. Other ages and heights will have different classifications.
Although there is technically a “normal” weight range according to youth growth charts, a normal weight for a 12-year old varies person to person and it is much more helpful to look at trends in weight rather than to try and assess health status based on one single weight measurement.
Read on for more information on how to determine what is a healthy weight for a 12-year old, what factors impact weight, when weight loss and dieting should be considered, and healthy eating and exercise habits.
What is a Healthy Weight for a 12-Year Old?
The average height for a 12-year old girl is around 59 inches tall or 4 feet 10 inches tall (150 cm). A healthy weight for a 12-year old girl at this height would be between 74 and 107 pounds (34 to 49 kg).
The average height for a 12-year old boy is around 58 inches tall or 4 feet 9 inches tall (147 cm). A healthy weight for a 12-year old boy at this height would be between 72 and 100 pounds (33 to 45 kg).
You can estimate weight classifications using this online calculator.
A healthy weight for a 12-year old is going to be different person-to-person. At 12-years old, kids are going through a huge period of growth with many years of growth still ahead of them. It might take time for their body to settle into a weight that really suits their body.
A healthy weight is a weight where all nutrient and energy needs are being taken care of, your body is being nourished, and hunger and fullness cues are being honored. Weight is simply just a number on a scale and we should be much more interested in a child’s healthy habits- or lack of healthy habits.
Looking at trends in weight over time is much more helpful than trying to determine health status based on just one weight measurement. This is why doctors and other healthcare providers will track your child’s weight on growth charts.
How to Interpret Growth Charts
Although you probably won’t have to actually calculate your child’s growth percentile on these charts, it is still helpful to understand how they work.
- Calculate BMI (Body Mass Index) using your child’s height and weight. Using an online calculator is an easy way to calculate BMI!
- Select the appropriate growth chart for males or females. Growth patterns do differ depending on gender, so it is important to look at the right growth chart.
- Age will be on the bottom of the chart and BMI will usually be on the left and right sides. Find the point where your two numbers intersect and that is the point you will be evaluating!
- Many growth charts, like the ones shown below, are actually color coded to make it easy to see the difference between underweight (<5%), normal weight (5-85%), overweight (85-95%), and obese (>95%).
- As you get multiple measurements over time, you can see your child’s growth pattern and your doctor will look for any red flags that proper growth is not happening.
Below are the growth charts for boys and girls that can be used from ages 2-20.
For Girls. Image Courtesy of Penn State PRO Wellness.
For Boys. Image Courtesy of Penn State PRO Wellness.
What is Overweight for a 12-Year Old?
The average height for a 12-year old girl is around 59 inches tall or 4 feet 10 inches tall (150 cm). A weight of 108 pounds (49 kg) or higher would be considered overweight at this height.
The average height for a 12-year old boy is around 58 inches tall or 4 feet 9 inches tall (147 cm). A weight of 101 pounds (46 kg) or higher would be considered overweight at this height.
The term “overweight” is used if your child is between the 85th and 95th percentiles on the growth charts (shown above). However, it is important to remember that this is just a classification and on its own, says nothing about your child’s actual health status.
Regardless of whether you are classified as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese, your healthcare provider should always be asking follow-up questions about eating and exercise patterns as well as sleep habits, stress levels and other relevant concerns in your life. This will help to paint a clearer picture of what is actually going on and help pinpoint areas that might need a little bit of tweaking.
What Factors Can Impact a 12-Year Old’s Weight?
Eating and exercise are the obvious factors that influence weight, but did you know that there are actually quite a few others?
- Sleep Getting a full night’s rest is essential to give your body time to rest, recover and prepare to perform at its best. Sleep is also an important time for your hormones to go through their regular cycles to be functioning like they should be.
- Stress Mental health is an extremely important part of overall health, but is sometimes overlooked. High levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can actually lead you to store fat differently in your body and affect weight that way. Emotional eating or loss of appetite due to stress and other strong emotions can impact weight as well.
- Social Atmosphere If your child relies on school lunches, is eating at friend’s houses, goes out to eat on the weekend with friends, etc. they are being impacted by social pressures to eat a certain way. Sometimes they have little control over the foods they are consuming which can sometimes impact weight.
- Access to Healthy Food Location and budget may restrict the healthy options that kids have to eat which can absolutely influence their weight.
- Family Beliefs Children and teenagers learn from their parents and older siblings, so the eating dynamics at home play a large role in the habits and beliefs they pick up and carry throughout their adult life.
When Should a 12-Year Old Lose Weight?
If the terms overweight and obese immediately make you think about turning to weight loss, let me remind you that at 12-years old, there is a lot of growth and development happening. Attempting to lose weight at the same time where your body is going through all of these changes is a really bad idea and can have really unfortunate results.
Instead of attempting to lose weight at 12-years old, the focus should be to slow excess weight gain through establishing healthy eating and exercise patterns. As a society, we don’t do a very good job of teaching kids and adults basic principles of nutrition, and as a result, many people just don’t understand how or what to eat. Working with a dietitian to learn basic nutrition principles can make a huge difference in someone’s eating habits.
It is also important to teach kids how to listen to their bodies. Our bodies are extremely smart and know what they need, but listening and understanding what your body needs is a skill that takes practice. With a focus on eating intuitively and nourishing your body, you will eventually settle into a weight that is healthy for you.
- The Right Way to Lose Weight for Teens
- How Many Calories Should a Teenage Girl Eat to Lose Weight?
- How Can I Tell if my Teen is Overweight? Advice from a Dietitian
- What is the Best Diet Plan for a 13-Year Old?
- What to do if a Teenager is Gaining Weight too Fast
Should 12-Year Old’s Go on a Diet?
Dieting is not appropriate for anyone, and especially not for kids! Think of the popular diets that you know of. Most of them work by restricting how much you are consuming or the certain foods and food groups you are consuming.
For kids that are at an essential time of growth and development, restricting foods from their diet can have negative consequences. Restriction and dieting usually result in missing out on important nutrients that your body needs. In fact, this is usually why dieting doesn’t work in the long-term anyway- your body hates restriction!
A focus on healthy habits is much different from dieting and is a much better approach for everyone (no matter how old you are!)
Need help from a registered dietitian nutritionist with your child’s weight and health habits? Check out my newest ebook and healthy weight program (it’s written for teenagers but the principles are helpful for anyone!) Find it here.
Healthy Eating Habits for a 12-Year Old
So what are the basics of healthy eating that 12-year old’s should be doing? Let’s go through a few important principles that are easy to implement.
- Eat regularly throughout the day. Your body needs fuel consistently to have energy to do all of the things it needs to do. Going long periods without eating usually causes you to eventually overeat.
- Include carbohydrates, protein, and fat every time you eat. Carbs are your body’s main source of energy, but without protein and fat to slow down your digestion and sustain that energy, you will just get a spike in blood sugar and not feel super satisfied for very long. Pair foods together so that you get a good mix of these important nutrients.
- Eat a variety of foods. Each food has a unique makeup of nutrients and provides different things for your body so try to mix up your eating routine and include different foods.
- Eat mindfully. Remove distractions so that you can be present at meal times and really focus on what you are eating and how it makes you feel. It will be much easier to hear hunger and fullness cues if you are free from distractions!
Healthy Exercise Habits for a 12-Year Old
Remember that exercise is an important part of health as well! It helps keep your muscles (including your heart) strong and healthy, and it also boosts mood and helps you feel happier. Here are a few things to consider with exercise.
- Do exercises that you enjoy. Being physically active doesn’t mean you have to go for a run every day if you hate running. Try finding other forms of movement that you do like. The best type of exercise is the one you enjoy and can commit to doing regularly.
- It is recommended for kids to be active for at least 60 minutes each day. However, this activity doesn’t have to come all at the same time. Try taking movement breaks throughout the day.
- Include exercises that strengthen your muscles, heart, and bones. This likely means you will want to include a variety of exercise types throughout the week.
Although there is a specific definition for “normal weight,” don’t get too caught up by the number on the scale. Look more at the habits your 12-year old has, and what is going on in their life. This other information is a much better indicator of health status than a single weight measurement.
Work as a family to establish healthy eating and exercise patterns, eat mindfully, get enough sleep, and reduce stress levels. These are the best things you can do to help your children be healthy and reach a weight that is appropriate for them!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Child and Teen BMI. Cdc.gov. Published March 17, 2021.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Obesity Causes and Consequences. Published March 19, 2021.
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