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Children Eating Too Much

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Eating > Children Eating Too Much



Can a toddler eat too much?

May 2006

My 15 month old daughter has an amazing appetite- she can put away as much as a much older child. She is in the 90th % for weight and 75th % for height so she is a big, sturdy girl. I have no problem with her size- she eats everything we eat and loves all of it (stopped eating baby food at 9 months)- she also poops up to 5 times a day! Now that she's talking a little, she can ask for specific favorite foods (e.g.: Cheese!) Is there a time when we should begin to limit the amount she eats/drinks?
-tired of changing poopy diapers!


My now 4.5-year-old daughter sounds exactly like yours and I have wondered on and off for the last few years about whether to restrict her. I recommend the book ''Your Child's Weight: Helping Without Harming'' by Ellyn Satter. Bottom line: do not limit how much she eats, but you can control when she eats and what she is offered. Liz O.
I believe that it is when a child stops eating baby food that that is about the marking point for when it can be appropriete to limit food (before then is just ridiculous!). It does sound like your daughter is getting a bit too much; it might be time to start limiting portions. Though you should be grateful she is eating, and will eat a variety of foods (an absolute blessing, never forget), it isn't good for a small child to eat so much food that their exercise and height cannot match up with their food intake. Simply give reasonable portions for her size (that would be an amount of food the size of her fist for each type of food), and when it is gone just say ''That's all. Supper is done now.'' Of course, if this feels wrong for your child instinctively, it probably won't make or break her life eating habits if you don't limit food intake, just so long as you serve mostly highly nutritious foods Lawerence
Your baby sounds perfectly wonderful and healthy. And it sounds like you have done a great job helping her develop a healthy relationship with food. My 15-month-old sounds just like your baby. I think she eats half her body weight each day, poops up a storm and easily outpaces her 3.5 yr old big sis at the table. So would you be shocked to hear she is only in the 10th percentile?!

I have recommended Ellyn Satter's ''Child of Mine'' to many friends and think you would get a lot from it too. Enjoy her great appetite, and if you are really ready to ditch those poopy diapers you could always think about geting a jump on potty training. Diaper Free Baby is a great resource www.diaperfreebaby.org. I usually catch 1-2 poops a day in the potty, which gives me hope that I won't be wiping butts all day for the rest of eternity. Good luck! rundmstein


I have the same question! how can my 12 month old baby eat a slice of buttered toast, a yogurt and HALF A CANTALOUPE for breakfast?! Then eat another slice of toast and a cheese stick 20 minutes later?! Then it's lunch time!

He stopped eating pureed baby food at 7 months and has been eating regular adult/restaurant food since 10 months. He's also completely off the charts for height and weight (but leveling off), but no concern from the pediatrician. So, i've just been putting up with the poop - at least 3 times, sometimes 5 times, sometimes more! He's hungry, he points to food, he eats with relish - opening his mouth wide like a baby bird. I guess he just needs it!

Looking forward to reading the responses. zina


Out of Control Eatting in 10 year old daughter

Jan 2006

I have a 10 year old daughter who loves to eat and never seems to realize when she is full. She is 10-15 lbs overweight, and seems to carry it all in her stomach.

My concern is that her continual overeatting will cause her to become obese. She doesn't like to eat green vegetables, but instead focuses on all the white foods (macoroni and cheese, breads, potatoes, etc). I try to get her to make healthy choices, and we don't keep ''junk'' food at home, but when she is away from me she eats large quantities of sugar treats and refined flour products. She is not an intrinsically active child, although with my encouragement she plays soccer and basketball.

Lastly, her internal motor seems to always be running in overdrive. She talks fast and constantly, and is a bit intense. I am at my wits end and afraid that her overeatting is spiralling out of control. Help!! Concerned Mom


Hi. I realize I don't know you or your daughter, let alone your history together, but I had to respond to your post. 10-15 pounds isn't a huge amount of weight for a girl that age. She may be going through that pudgy stage girls go through a little earlier than you might have anticipated. Maybe you never had a pudgy stage growing up. Each girl is different.

I know from personal experience that eating the ''white'' foods you mentioned does make me crazy (talking fast, chatter brain) and that those ''white'' foods break down into sugar twice as fast as a healthier version of that food. Sugar does make our brains go much faster.

I would encourage you to try to talk to your daughter about whatever is on her mind. If you are overly concerned about your daughter's eating, weight, your daughter is going to pick up on that and internalize your concerns into a ''personal problem'' and that can have a very negative effect on how your daughter sees her self as a person as well as her body.

I have belonged to a 12 step program for people that are recovering from eating disorders of all kinds for over 10 years. Our members are primarily women and we come from all walks of life. We may be anorexic, bulemic, or compulsive overeaters. Our eating disorders almost always have a congenital compenent. However, most people's stories include having a distorted view of our bodies.

Now I'm speaking for myself. As the daughter of a mother who is a compulsive overeater, anorexic and bulemic, I was 10-15 lbs. heavier than I ''should'' have been at various points in my adolescence. My mother's constant ''concern'' and ''interest'' in my eating behaviors, weight, and body size had a very negative effect on my self esteem as well as how I saw my body.

Please, please, please, take your concerns about your daughter's weight to a therapist. Gratefully recovering member of Oveaters Anonymous


Adrenarche, getting ready for menarche, can be a time when children develop strong appetites. Key to building a healthy body, however, is good food choices. You might use the 80/20 concept to ensure she gets the best possible foods 80% of the time. This would mean being a better gate keeper and not a cafeteria. A really good book to get to improve the feeding relationship with your child is HOW TO GET YOUR KIDS TO EAT...BUT NOT TOO MUCH by Ellyn Satter. While I disagree with her suggested dietary choices, I do think she nailed it with the division of responsibility between parent and child: you choose the foods and meal times and she chooses whether to eat and how much. By withholding food, experiments show children gained weight. For the underweight child, force feeding caused continued weight loss. So it isn't simply portion size. Having relaxed meals without argument, having her participate in preparation, camoflaging vegetables in tasty sauces and soups, visiting the farmer's markets, watching cooking shows, trying new recipes, having a garden where she can freely graze, all can support her better relationship to food.

Now is the time to help her make good choices that will set her up for life. Rewards will backfire, Satter warns, so simply offer enough variety and encourage a bite of a new or green food each time one is served. It may take 7-20 attempts to get a new food down, but eventually, if the palate is not corrupted by refined foods, she will find some enjoyable. Nori Hudson, NC


My sister had a similar problem with her child and ended up taking her to counselor. That seemed to do the trick, as they discovered (and this certainly isn't always the case) that the child was eating from anxiety associated with problems in my sistera and brother-in-law's marriage. Caitlin was talking a mile a minute and very hyped for about a year. My sister took her to a therapist in Rockridge named Rebecca Lueck. She is an LCSW ad can be reached at 415 235-1071. My sister and daughter still see her (both indidually). Alternatively, you could try to cut out the tv. My sister was told that is correlated with childhood weight problems. Good luck! Brenda
You have probably already considered this but how about having her visit a nutritionist ? It would be someone other than you letting your daughter know the importance of good nutrition and proper portion sizes. It might also take some pressure off of you having to remind your daughter about food and eating. - anon
Please look into Ellyn Satter's books. She is both a dietitian and therapist and works with helping children and parents sort thru all their feelings around eating and feeding. Her advice is very concrete: do not restrict your child's eating; she will only eat more. Do not allow grazing. Offer 3 meals and a set number of snacks, and she gives ideas for balancing the foods that you offer. another mom
Please please don't ignore this or hope it will get better. I highly recommend Laurel Mellin's programs. I believe she has a children's program also. www.thepathway.org. Their approach is to give tools for emotional issues, to teach self-nurturing and setting limits. Please look at underlying causes like depression and anxiety. It took me to mid-adulthood to figure this out. I sure wish someone had been able to help me identify things earlier!! Anon
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