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How to help 6 yr old lose weight?

March 2007

My daughter has always been a large child, at the top of the scale in both height and weight. She recently turned 6 and is becoming self-conscious and unhappy about her weight. It upsets us to hear her call herself fat. She is not technically ''overweight'' since her weight is still on the chart and is proportional to her height, but she has quite a lot of extra weight around her midsection. We have talked to the pediatrician, and his advice was not to worry about it, that she will grow into her weight. We've been waiting for that to happen for a few years now, but it always seems that a growth spurt in height is accompanied by an equal increase in weight. I would like to help her lose weight now, before it really starts to affect her self-esteem. I welcome any advice from those who have dealt with this issue on what was successful. Our current plan is to provide healthy foods, very limited sweets or treats (although we can't control what she has access to at school or her after-school program), encourage her to be active and limit passive activities such as TV watching. I just don't know if this will be enough, or if we have to go farther and actually limit the amount we let her eat. She has a big appetite and will eat a huge amount at dinner if we let her - all healthy foods, but still, it seems like a huge amount of food for a six year old. Advice on what has worked for others is greatly appreciated. Concerned Mom


Please don't put your six year old girl who is not ''technically'' overweight on a diet! If you want to help her self-esteem, let her know how beautiful she is just the way she is. I think giving her healthy choices for her food and encouraging a healthy amount of exercise is fine, but please don't restrict her calories when she's not overweight! In my opinion, you will do far more damage than good if you encourage her to diet when she's already at a healthy weight, just because her tummy isn't perfectly flat. Diane
Hi Mom... I, like you, became concerned when my 5 year old started showing annual weight gains of nearly 20 pounds a year! He is now 8 years old and over the past 3 years he has put on 60 lbs. When he was 5 his doctor wrote in his checkup book ''Don't worry about his weight'' By the time he was 7 I was insisting on some intervention! I saw a nutritionist who urged me NOT to put him on a diet, but to offer him better food choices, smaller portions, less carbs, more proteins, etc.

I thought I was modifying his choices, but his weight continuted to climb. Finally last fall he weighed 126 lbs. and I insisted on seeing an endcronologist. We began meeting with Dr. Bhatia of Children's Hospital Endocronology. I wanted to rule out anything medical. While she found nothing 'wrong' with him, she and the nutritionist helped me realize was that I needed to help him control portions, understand when is body was satisfied and help him become more active. We began taking walks after dinner and I limited his sedentary activities as well as started seving smaller portions. I helped him understand that he didn't have to eat until his tummy hurt (he thought that was the sign that he was full, not overly-full).

Just tonight (it's his birthday today!) we went out to dinner and a bit more than halfway through his meal he told me he could tell he was feeling full, so should stop eating, and offered me the 2nd half of his birthday ice cream. I was SO proud of him.

At his checkup with the endocronologist last month I was thrilled to learn that while his height had increased, his weight was showing a leveling out. From his last checkup with his pediatrician in March of 2006, to his weigh-in last month, he has only put on 8 pounds!

My point in telling you all this is that there are a lot of us who worry about our children's weight, but putting a young child on a diet is dangerous. Helping them make healthy choices, aiding them in controlling their portions, helping them learn to listen to their body, and participating with them in physical activity will all go towards hopefully helping them help themselves learn better habits. I was quite overweight as a child, but am now a size 6 and careful about what I eat. He sees me making healthy choices, and I talk about why I can't have a treat everyday, so I am leading by example putting my money (or my food!) where my mouth is; literally!

Anyway, I hope this gives you the strength to investigate what might be contributing toward your daughter being overweight, and know that a diet isn't suitable for a 6 year old. I wish you all the best. I know how hard and emotional this is, cause I'm still there. Another mom who worries!


When I read your post, I almost started to cry. I was five when my parents put me on my first diet and started a cycle that is still with me at 35. I was a healthy, robust, and larger child. I have no doubt that had I been left to grow on my own I would have been healthy regardless of my size. Instead, my parents' efforts at ''helping'' me backfired and led to a lifetime of disordered eating that I have only normalized in the past several years. I am sure that dieting (or ''eating healthy'' because we all know that whatever we call it, restricted eating is a diet) impacted my developing body in negative ways and I know it was psychologically damaging. I understand wanting your daughter to be healthy, and, it sounds like she is, you should continue to encourage that. I also understand that you do not want your daughter to get teased. Kids tease and if it isn't about weight, it will be something else. Rather than trying to have your daughter change her body to avoid this teasing, the best thing you can do for your daughter is to help her feel comfortable in her body as it is. If she gets the message that you think she needs to change her body, you might as well be saying that the teasing children are right. If you are interested, check out bodypositive.com. anon
We live a very sedentary lifestyle today compared to even a generation ago and we seem reluctant to just let our kids go out and run around and play after school like we used to do when I was a kid. I would discourage anything that would make your child feel there is anything wrong with their appearance, but I would increase the number of active things you do with your child. You both will feel healthier and you may even lose some weight and tone up too. Last night I was running at the track and saw two mommies with their daughters of about 5 or 6 jogging around the track! I have entered my 6 and 10 year old with me in a 5K race and we walk and jog it together. We also go to the park and play tag around the play structures; red light, green light in the park and pool, etc. Have fun and the fitness and weight loss will come. Also, have healthy snacks like carrot sticks available. Encourage drinking lots of water rather than juices and eating lots of fruits (and veggies if you can get them to eat them...). Try to cut out fast foods. They are full of fats and salt. Good luck and email me if you would like any further info or support. kl
My son was also at the top of the charts for many years, starting at his birth. In fact, he was off the chart at times. I was most concerned as I was always a plump little girl and grew into a plump woman, with all the societal disapproval that comes with this in America. What I did: never limited food, but just had healthy stuff around, including lots of salad and finger food. If you can always start off your meal with salad or carrot and celery sticks, this will partly fill her up before she gets to the meat and potatoes.

But the main thing I did was to make sure my kid was as active as possible. This involved me playing more whiffle ball, etc. than I really wanted to, but it paid off. Note that I didn't just encourage him to be more active, I ensured he's be active by playing with him. Now he is a lean and muscular teenager and after going through the usual adolescent rebellion of eating as much junk food as he could, he's showing signs of wanting to eat more healthily. Good Luck. Dianna


Please see a Registered Dietitian who works with children, for some advice. Please read Ellyn Satter's books. Please don't limit the amount of food your daughter can eat at dinner. Most 6 year olds, especially if their weight is ''on the chart'' don't need to lose weight. Is she following the same weight percentile year after year? It just may be her shape. It is recommended that they gain more slowly through the lifestyle changes that you are talking about. Keep junk food out of the house; have the whole family make these changes. health professional

7 year old being teased for her weight

Oct 2006

My nearly 7 year old daughter has received comments lately (all in the past few months) about her weight. She has a slight tummy, but has been to the pediatrician and is exactly where she's supposed be on the charts. We eat healthy (lots of organic fruits and veggies), get exercise, don't eat fast food and don't watch television. I know that kids can say cruel things. I just don't know how to respond to the comments she has received. A little girl who is a ''friend'' told her she was fat and just today a kid at school called her a ''pig'' and said she eats too much. I don't know many people to turn to for advice. I told my daughter she is just the right size and she should be proud of how she takes care of her healthy body. Any sage advice out their in bringing up girls with a strong, healthy body image? Thanks so much anonymous


Hi. One of my sons is slightly overweight too (and we're like you, we eat organic foods and watch the food intake but that's just his body type) and when he's been teased and he tells me what kids say to him, I ask him, ''Do we ever call you those names?'' And he says, ''No.'' Then I say, ''Well, then, it doesn't matter what those *people* say because it's not important.'' That seems to make sense to him and it rolls off his back. One of his favorite songs is BEAUTIFUL by Christina Aguilera, a song we sing together that makes him feel so much better. Maybe you can hear it with your daughter as you wrap your loving arms around her. Good luck! mommy of chubby one too
I have a fat belly. What works best for me is dealing with it head-on, directly or humorously. Never shying away or being embarrassed. I like to tell people I have a jolly belly, and all jolly bellies are round! I say this with a big smile and then there's no tension about my fatness. Most people chuckle. It just IS, and it erases any bit of a problem. (I'd rather have a jolly belly than a starving, unhappy belly) All for health and self-love

Doctor concerned about 18-mo-old's weight

Sept 2006

My husband took our daughter to her 18 month check-up. First let me say that our daughter has always been in the ninety percentile for weight her entire life. She is a tofu, veggie, fruit, cheese eating, soymilk drinker that is very active and happy. She still nurses and loves it (not that often - more when she's sick or fussy). We do not give her refined or processed foods - no twinkies or ho ho's. So I was surprised when the doctor showed concern about her weight and suggested we see a nutritionist (my daughter weighs 30lbs at the office - 29 at home. She is 33 inches long and head measures, I think, 18 1/2 or 19 inches). She said this was the time to start worrying about weight. My husband and I were both big babies - I always thought she fit right in.

I feel insulted and mad. She's planted this seed (especially in my husbands head) that we do not feed her properly, when I know we do. I would like to hear what other people think. Is this a big deal? Should I calm down and go to the nutritionist just to hear what I know already? concerned mom


Calm down and go to the nutritionist - then next time the doctor tells you your Dh is overweight, you can tell her the nutritionist said you are feeding her fine. I'd also recommend you get another doctor - you should be able to have a dialogue with your pediatrician marga
How about finding another doctor ? It sounds like your present doc has very different views about weight and nutrition than you and the match is not a good one. RK
I wouldn't worry about it especially if both you and your husband were both large babies. My daughter is two and loves to eat and like you I feed her fruits, veggies, whole grains, soymilk, tofu etc. At her two year old well-check appointment she was in the 80th percentile for weight and the 18th for height. The doctor wasn't concerned and said not to worry about it now as she will probaly become more proportional since she is very active and eats a healthy diet. My son was rolly polly as a baby and he is now a string bean. Enjoy her while she still has baby fat because they change so quickly! Berkeley Mom
I'm not a nutritionist and my only child is younger than yours so I'm totally unqualified to give advice, but here's my opinion anyway: as long as your daughter is eating a nice variety of nutritious foods and enjoying the eating experience, it's totally inappropriate to try to control her weight or what she eats. She knows what she needs to eat, and you don't want to interfere with her own ability to regulate her eating. By telling her she needs to eat less or only certain foods, you could set her up for a lifetime of eating problems. I say, go with your gut feeling that her eating is fine. Keep eating guilt-free
My son was off the charts for most of his babyhood. I still remember the relief I felt when he was about 3 and he finally was on the chart, albeit 99th percentile in weight. All this time he was about 50th percentile in height. Fortunately, none of his doctors ever worried much about this and how he's a lean and muscular 16 year old.

Of course with all the latest concern/hysteria about youth obesity, I can see why your son's doctor brought it up. But the fact is, some kids just grow differently at first than other kids. I was odd and not fitting the norm at all in the way I gained weight during pregnancy myself, so I wasn't too concerned. I think if you outline for the doctor what you feed the child, and discuss exercise a little, then maybe you can get him/her to reach the conclusion that there is no real need for concern here. Good luck Dianna


It's hard not to take comments like these personally, because heaven knows we as parents are doing the best we can for our kids and for anyone in a position of medical authority to suggest anything to the contrary is really hard to hear. Believe me, after dealing with my son's serious excema and unsuccessfully trying all kinds of prescription and homeopathic methods, his no-nonsense allergist reduced me to tears in the doctors' office when she seemingly implied that I wasn't trying hard enough!

Maybe your doctor is thinking that BECAUSE you are feeding her all the 'right foods' and your daughter is in the upper percentile for weight, she just wants to confirm that you have a naturally 'big' baby and there's nothing else going on. Since you did say you wanted to hear what other people think, it couldn't hurt to see the nutritionist. Maybe the nutritionist will confirm your initial thoughts and vindicate your feelings toward your daughter's doctor.

(BTW, once I calmed myself down and took the allergist's suggestions for dealing with my son's excema, his skin cleared within two weeks--her approach worked better than any other treatment method we had been experimenting with for over two years.) A mom


I have a 9 mo. old boy who is already 22 lbs. and is 29.5'' tall. He's in the 90th percentile, and his doctor is not at all concerned. I'm sure by 18mo. (9 months from now) he too will be at the 30lb. mark pretty easily. His doctor was not at all concerned, and I realize my baby is much younger than yours, but I can't see why this would be a problem that she's in a higher percentile. If you and your husband were both big babies (as opposed to obese babies), then I'm not sure what the problem is. I know our pediatrian is more concerned that our son is proportionate more than anything else (i.e. his weight and height are in the same percentile, or if not, then that his height is in a higher percentile than his weight instead of the other way around). I would probably talk to the doctor in greater detail, explain your daughter's current diet/nutrition, ask what percentile her height falls is (if it is the same or close to the percentile for her weight), and then ask why it's a problem. Does he think it's indicative of some other problem? I'd also consider seeing a different pediatrian for another opinion Mom of a big baby too
I'm so sorry to hear that you have been made to feel anxious about your baby's health. I checked back in our little medical book to see what our son's weight/height was at 18 months since he is a strong little guy (he's now two years old). He weighed 33 pounds and was 34 1/4 inches long, so his body was very similar to your baby's. My advice would be to trust yourself and your childrearing choices. Our pediatrician has always understood that our son is going to be high if not off the growth charts (my husband is 6 feet 5 inches), and she has never passed judgement about what we are or aren't doing in terms of nutrition. She thinks he is perfect, and I'm sure your daughter is, too. I think it's too bad that your ped is encouraging you to make some changes that might negatively impact your daughter's health or self-esteem ... it's too young to start with a message that she isn't good enough. She'll be faced with that soon enough without starting it now. Keep doing what you're doing ... and maybe think about sharing your thoughts with your doctor so you can still work together. Good luck! Anon
If your child's height and weight are measuring more or less at the same percentile, then I wouldn't worry about her weight so much either. Meantime, don't be insulted by your doctor's comment. Your doctor doesn't have all the information you have about what your child eats and how much she eats. As you say, I would view it as a nice opportunity to see a nutritionist and ask any random food questions you might have. The nutritionist likely will applaud you for your child's excellent diet. You can then bring that back to the pediatrician and your husband to reassure them both that all is well. I have big babies too
I disagree with your doctor about weight being an issue at this point. If your baby is healthy and active it seems crazy to me to worry about her weight! However, I do agree that it would be a good idea to see a nutritionist. There is evidence that soymilk can be harmful, causing premature puberty, aluminum toxicity and other problems. It is a highly processed food and I never understood why it was considered a ''health food''. I assume that your family is vegetarian? It would be a good idea to get alternatives to soymilk and tofu anonymous
My concern would be about the quantity of soy in your daughters diet, not her weight. Is it possible that is what your doctor was worried about? Perhaps you know the concerns about soy & feel ok about feeding it to your daughter? From what I understand kids are ok if they stay in their track -- ie, weight in the 90 percentiles, height in the 80's etc good luck
I don't have any expert advice to give you, just the experience/perspective of another family. I will admit that I subscribe to the idea that at this age, kids (barring any physical and/or emotional problem, but you don't seem to be dealing with that kind of situation)can and should decide the amount of food they eat. I believe the parent should provide healthy choices and the child should decide how much they will eat and when. So thats where Im coming from as I offer you our experience.

We have a 15-month-old boy who is about (I can't quite remember)27 pounds and 34 inches long. That doesn't sound too far off from your child. Our Doctor, Dr. Bean, has never ever been concerned about his weight. In fact, he knows that we intentionally choose high-fat healthy options when possible (like greek yogurt instead of regular whole or low-fat and putting a tablespoon of flax oil in his cereal every morning) to make sure that he is getting enough fat in his diet (he usually eats veggies, fruit, and whole grains, which have basically no fat). So, from another mom, our kids sound about the same size and we have never been told that there is a concern, nor do we think there is. (continued below) genevieve

A couple things to consider - Do you trust your doctor in general? Because I think that you can put up with a dentist you don't completely like, but I feel like you should LOVE your pediatrician and really have trust for them. Also, I wonder if the fact that you have a daughter and I have a son has anything to do with this. As screwed up as it is, it seems like social acceptability for boys to be big starts when they are infants (we have gotten many nods of approval during his life from strangers ''wow, he's a big boy!'' and its been clear to me that if he was a girl this size, people wouldn't make these comments). My son also has a huge head (I say this with love!). So, his body doesnt actually look big at all - his legs are little, his belly is round like all toddlers, his thighs and arms dont have rolls. Naked, he actually looks kind of slender. I think a lot of is weight is in his big head.:). Anyways, I just wonder if you your Doctor is concerned based on what she looks like? To me, this would be wholly inapprporiate.

About your specific question - sure, go to the nutritionist and see what she has to say. Can't hurt. Maybe there will be some helpful advice. Maybe not. Then, make the choice you feel is right for you and your kid and your family. I already put our apporach above so I wont repeat it, but if your kid is getting healthy choices, I say let her eat! genevieve


well somebody had to be in the 90th percentile right? I don't think that in and of itself it a concern. what Docs are supposed to keep track of is if there are any relatively sudden chnges in the way your child tracks with the growth chart so if she's always been big and sudden decline in the rate of her growth would be a concern. or if she went completely off the chart. since she's active and normal in other ways and consistent with her parents' growth patterns at that age, there's probably no reason for concern. if the doc wants you to visit a nutritionist and it's convenient - what's the harm? You might learn something, it might be interesting but don't fret too much about it, your instincts are probably correct anon

Help: overweight 8-year-old & working mom

August 2006

Hi all, I have an 8 year old who is about 10 pounds overweight. It is mostly on her belly and she is just gaining at a rapid pace. I am trying to instill the idea of healthy balanced food/activity but just talking is not getting us anywhere. If I were a stay at home mom, I would be taking her to sports practices or gyms or dance ... but I work until 6 pm. Her school does not offer anything like that, so ... what do people do? I live in Richmond/el cerrito area. Please no lectures about body image and the media. I just want advice about how to get her to be a more active and strong and slow down the growth rate. You working parents out there, what do you do? Thanks want to get moving


hi, sounds like this is stressing you out! it is very difficult to manage everything in life when you're a parent who works outside of the home - one of the things that can go down the drain is shopping mindfully and cooking.

my thesis is that we are all set up to ''fail'' because the majority of foods available in a mainstream large supermarket are not good for you and foods for kids are not good in particular.

you have to limit her access to bad foods and snacks - as much as you have to try to encourage exercise and activity - you can't walk or jump off a happy meal. however, this could be challenging given her age and you not being home - but try to do it without making it a power or control thing, it just so happens all you have to snack on are bananas and apples, not chips or frozen pizza. limit juice to one a day and the rest is water.

that also means you have to shop more often - which again is a burden when you work outside of the home - well when you work at home/from home too!

maybe you two can take a walk together when you get home in the evenings to talk about each other's days - that gets you and her out of the house, away from the TV and other stressors (phone or whatever) and you can bond.

we try and make the most of your weekends by doing active activities - good luck and keep trying


start with overhauling your cupboards-just don't buy her trigger foods. Keep the carrot sticks, apples slices around as snacks,(they even have mini packets already done) low-fat popcorn, rice cakes etc.( cookies are highly over-rated.) I buy a bag of frozen chicken breast thaw-throw the whole thing in ziploc bag with a packet of GRILL CREATIONS/GRILL MATES seasoning packets. Pam on the pan and dinner is on the way. a bag of salad and a little rice/roll etc. and you're good to go. a recent study on kids blamed too much ''TO GO'' food as providing too big of portions and too much fat. Grab a workout video for kids(hip hop/disney) and make it mom and me time.go for a walk after dinner and hustle around on the weekend-check out some trails, the park and make sure there is as little as possible passive time(TV/ video/computer) If she balks explain that you want to help her be strong and healthy. Its not a weight thing but a lifestyle. ''big boned'' mom-healthy kids
It sounds like the school could encourage some sort of activity during the 2-3 hours she's there in afterschool. What about hoolahoops, jump ropes, four-square? None require much equipment or space.

A fun nightly activity could be to blast some music in your living room and have a family dance party for a few minutes before dinner. I'm sure you're all hungry but this should be a great way for everyone to relax and have fun.

I'm studying to be a nutritionist but it doesn't sound like you're worried about what she's eating. If you want some basic tips in that area, please let me know. virginia


Does your daughter attend one of the El Cerrito public schools? The City of El Cerrito afterschool care at Castro and Harding offers some of its afternoon programs to kids at these facilities and transports them to and from the community center. Last year there was gymnastics and swimming. There are also Saturday swimming classes at the El Cerrito community pool. You and your daughter can also go for walks in the evening --a mom
2 quick suggestions: For one thing you can cut out juice entirely, except on special occaisions. Kids don't need juice; water and milk are fine. If she really likes juice, see if she will accept orange juice. When you do give juice boxes, make sure they do not contain ''high fructose corn syrup''. This ingredient is bad news in a lot of ways. You can find juice boxes without it at regular stores, but you have to read the ingredient labels.

Suggestion #2 for exercise: Dance jams! I'm not talking some event at a club, I mean in your kitchen or living room. My kids absolutely love to put on the disco, funk, or salsa music and dance around with me. It is fun and we are both getting exercise.

If you have the space, you can also get a small trampoline (about 3' around) that kids love to jump on and increases the exercise level.

Oh I just remembered another thing: to keep fruits and vegetables in the house, you can get them delivered by companies like Bay Area Organic Express (The BOX).

Good luck! trying to be more active and healthy myself


I just now read your posting, you don't say whether or not your daughter eats her lunch from the school cafetaria. My son was in a school for many years that did not have a cafetaria, so I packed him a lunch everyday. Last year he started a new school and I let him eat his lunch at school, because as a working mom it made it easier on me. Well, my son gained 16 pounds in one year and I have to believe it was from the school food. He is a very active boy and he usually gains a couple of pounds a year. Even if he had a normal growth spurt, it would not been more than 6 pounds. Looking at the ''nutritional value'' of the food (you can find this usually online), every lunch had and average calorie count of 650, and 30 grams of fat. I myself am a life time member at weight watchers and if I would eat the school food, all I could probably have is one meal a day and a couple of (healthy snacks). No wonder our nation's children are getting heavier and heavier! another working mom

15 month daughter overweight

Nov 2005

My daughter is 15 months old. She LOVES to eat. She will eat and eat and eat. We only give her healthy foods like fruits, veggies, dairy, protein, etc. She doesn't like sweets or ''garbage'' at all. However, the volume of food that she eats is A LOT! And when she was a little baby, I noticed that she would drink and drink formula and SCREAM when she finished the bottle because she always wanted more. She never seemed satieted.

Now, at 15 months old, she is in the 75th percentile for head circumference and height, but she is literally off the charts for her weight. She is almost 28 pounds.

The doctor gave me some guidelines to follow for her portions and wants me to come back for a ''weight check'' in a month. I've been reducing her portion size to an appropriate amount for the past few days and she screams and cries for more. It is killing me. I am not sure what to do. Any thoughts?? Is it possible that my daughter can't regulate the amount she needs to eat to feel satisfied? Does this mean she will be an overeater for her lifetime?

I am petite and my husband is normal sized. It is so strange that I am having to watch the amount my 15 month old eats.


congratulations on having a healthy, happy baby who eats well! at 28 pounds, your daughter is just barely 'off the charts'- for 15 months, 95th percentile is about 27.5 pounds. and I'm sure you'll have a lot of people tell you those charts are BS, anyway. so many babies are chubby & then 'lean out' as they start to run, climb, etc. more, plus weight gain tapers off. my daughter was 25 pounds at 15 months... now she is 3 & a slender 33 pounds. as long as you are listening your baby's hunger cues (ie not force feeding her)& giving her nutritious food, she'll be fine! virginia
I have a friend who when she was a baby was just a roll of fat. Literally she was round as a ball. Her parents fed her very healthy foods which you say you do as well but it was just that she ate a lot. She still eats a lot actually but when I met her at age 14 she was (and is now) 5'6 120lbs! If I were you I wouldn't worry about it at all. Tell your doctor you're not ready for your 15 month old to have an eating disorder!! perfectly healthy
Check out the book ''Child of Mine, Feeding with Love and Good Sense'' by Ellyn Satter. She also wrote ''How to get your Kids to eat...But not too much'' I cannot recommend the first book more, I havent seen the second. N.
Hi, I feel for you! Who wants to start introducing weight consciousness to a toddler? It seems like an emotional minefield. I can't say whether or not your daughter has an organic issue, but I do think that a generation ago this wouldn't have been on the doctor's radar in the same way, and that's worth noting. Our adult obsession with weight is trickling down, sometimes in positive ways, sometimes in unhealthy ways, to our kids. I do want to note that one of the plumpest toddlers I knew - a girl whose parents were both fit and trim - has grown into a 6'1'', 140-lb. high school senior. She is incredibly well- proportioned, fit, athletically slim and attractive. I think her body was saving up nutrients to make its big push upward! Maybe your daughter has similar plans? Nancy
The doctor I saw as a child retired last year so I ordered copies of all my records. Looking over my files, I noticed that at 6mos they wrote ''obese'' in my chart. I can't remember what I weighed, but I couldn't believe that classification could be applied to an 6 mo old. Anyway, my mom said she didn't worry about it, and I'm happy to report that I was not an overweight child or adult. amy
Read Ellyn Satter's most recent book! I believe it is called ''your child's weight.'' She is both a dietitian and a therapist specializing in the ''eating relationship.'' The more you try to restrict your child's eating, the more she may try to eat, leading exactly to the problem you are trying to avoid. Ellyn's guideline is: the parent is in charge of when and what to eat; the child is in charge of how much. Let your child enjoy her meals and grow the way she is meant to grow. Children have amazing wisdom about being full and hungry, not like adults who can be influenced by so many things. another mom

Overweight four-year-old

August 2003

My daughter is four and this past year put on a lot of weight. She is now almost sixty pounds and I feel like I need to take control of this before she gets any heavier. I would like to create a diet that could be for her and the family too. Can someone recommend a dietition, some easy reciepes that would help her drop some pounds, some advice on this? I want to approach this situation with sensitivity and in a practical way, as not to create any shame around eating for her. Thanks for your time.


Hi. I read your post and told myself I had to respond. I'd like to recommend a wonderful, caring,thoughtful and an amazingly knowledgable dietician by the name of Judith Levine. Judith consults via the American Heart Association in San Francisco. I met Judith in 1987 and with her support and my determination over the course of time I lost weight. She helps people understand how to approach food, food choices along with incorporating excercise. She promotes a life balance and realism into the process because there is alot to juggle in life. Overtime it becomes a natural way of living and a lifestyle change that you adopt (and adapt) too. I say this because I realized that my (bad) food choices as an adult were developed at a very young age and through her did I make a connection. I say this because now we have 20 month old identical twin boys and we are much more cognizant with regards to preparing food, choosing food, and making choices when out at restaraunts. One of Judith's passions is children and she wrote a book regarding the subject of children and weight loss. It's called Helping Your Child Loose Weight The Healthy Way: A Family Approach to Weight Control. Here is a link to a brief writeup. http://www.kaiserpermanente.org/medicine/permjournal/fall02/weigh t.html. Her contact info is: 120 Montgomery, Suite 1650, SF. 415- 273-5606. I think it would be worth arranging some sessions with her. I just can't say enough about how she changed my life. She is worth every penny and more!! I wish you and your family the best. Please let me know how it goes. Hilary
Children often go through periods where they bulk up, then slim down as they move through growth spurts. Therefore, it can be difficult to know what is a weight problem and what is normal growth. Genetics can also play a strong role in children's weight, even though our society would like us to believe that we should all be tall and thin. Many people are above the national average in weight (and I'm talking average, not societal anorexic ideal) and still in great health. If a child is reasonably active, chances are they are not overweight. If they are very sedentary, that is another issue, but one better addressed by increasing physical activity, not changing diet.

My suggestion would be to read a book called Like Mother, Like Daughter: How Women Are Influenced by Their Mother's Relationship With Food and How to Break the Pattern. There are specific tips for dealing with food and exercise as a family. I found this book to be tremendously helpful. Good luck. non-dieter


I think it's great that you want to help your daughter and the rest of your family live a healthy life. And that's the way I would phrase it if asked. Don't talk about the weight and do talk about how much you love her and think she's wonderful. A few simple rules that often help:
1. Turn off the TV/video games/movies. Either get rid of them for at least a month, or give her coupons that she can use for 15 minutes of screen time to average 30-60 minutes daily maximum.
2. Make sure she gets at least an hour of exercise, really running around, getting sweaty, having fun (this is great to do as a family).
3. Get rid of all simple carbohydrates in the house (no juice/soda/koolaid, cookies, crackers, candy, cakes, white flour products). Go very light on pasta or buy whole wheat pasta.
4. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils like the plague.
5. Don't give her nonfat stuff, either lowfat or whole fat yogurt, milk, etc. The nonfat tends to be higher on sugar and doesn't fill you up.
6. Make sure that every meal or snack has some protein and some fruit or vegetable. 3 meals and 2-3 snacks usually do it at this age.
7. When you use fat, for cooking or dipping veggies, etc., try to use olive oil (or butter), not margarine.
8. Get her involved in cooking, and teach her some good nutrition principles. Sorry I don't have a name of a dietitian to give you but I think it's a good idea to work with one. good luck! MamaMD
In the off-chance that this may apply: after my chunky four year old was put on asthma meds he became much more active and quickly lost weight. I hope that this is helpful. Amazon Mom

Weight loss group for overweight 9-year-old

July 2002

I have a 9 year old daughter who is overweight and has gained probably a good 25 pounds in the last 6 months. We had tried the Weight Watchers approach but she does not want to have to write everything down and does not want to have to keep points. I myself am overweight and dealing with my own issues about weight. Unfortunately I haven't been a great role model and have been hard on her. I wanted to know if anyone knows of any weight loss groups for kids that I could take her to. Any leads would be great. Thanks Obesity


Weight loss is often not necessary for growing children, the goal can be to ''grow into'' their weight, that is, maintain until their height catches up with their weight.

Though your child may need to lose weight (25 lbs is a lot of extra weight for a 9-year-old) increased activity and unlimited access to healthy foods is probably better than a counting calories approach.

There is lots of evidence linking TV watching with obesity in children. I read a study not long ago where they took a group of overweight kids and asked half to limit their television viewing/computer time to one hour/day. The group that cut down on TV lost weight.

Some parents have a ''if its light, you're outside'' policy, that keeps kids running around outside instead of sitting inside. Make outside fun: Make an obstacle course in your yard and run through it together. If you live in an apartment you can try these things: Put up a piece of string to jump over. Raise it a little every day, and practice jumping over it every day. Go for a walk together. Get your child to walk fast or keep her going when she complains with inventive stories. Our favorites: we are fleeing a dragon (find things along the way to fight the dragon with --- ivy that puts dragons to sleep, etc), (if it is hot and feet are dragging) we are lost in a desert and we must make it to a distant caravan before it departs (or oasis) and we die of thirst. Be sure to encounter lots of scorpions, poisonous puddles of water, skulls, sidewinder snakes, along the way. Maybe 9 is too old for this, but it works great for 2-6! Worth a try anyway. Your 9-year-old may enjoy writing down the adventures with your help and illustrating them when you get home.

Enroll your child in an organized sport. Regular exercise will make a huge difference. If your child is embarrassed, or doesn't want to participate in a competitive sport why not rollerblade or bike ride together OR, enroll your child in swim lessons. Enroll your child in an outdoor summer camp for a week or two. Go to nature walks in the parks with a ranger and learn about wildlife while you get some exercize. Take up backyard birdwatching. There is a great device called the ''identiflyer'' you carry it around and see if any birds you hear match the birds on the identiflyer, so you can learn to identify birds by their call.

Don't buy any junk food. No fat-free cookies. No soda, no juice except citrus juice (most juices are mostly sugar, with little nutritional value. Citrus juices are an exception). No ''nutrition'' bars (calories are very concentrated). No sugared cereal. Children, like adults, will overeat junk food, but will refuse an apple, strawberries, piece of ham or turkey, cube of cheese, glass of milk, boiled egg if they are really not hungry. I think it is much easier to be disciplined at the grocery store than at home. Do allow occasional, reasonably-portioned treats.

Diets can have a negative effect on girls' self-esteem and set them up for a life-long habit of unsuccessful dieting. On the other hand, an active lifestyle and healthy eating we very much hope to make life-long habits, so I recommend you focus on those!

If your child doesn't like to exercise, incentivize with non-food rewards. Make a chart, have your child earn the rewards and make sure the rewards are on-hand for immediate delivery. Rewards that ''we'll go out and buy as soon as you do whatever'' are too abstract (the kids don't trust you for one thing) and not nearly as motivating as the object on the shelf that they could have if only they did what they need to. I have a stack of drawers filled with ready rewards from the dollar store and they are HUGELY motivating. I put small rewards in the top drawer labelled one (for one piano practice) and then increasingly nice and tantalizing rewards in drawers labelled 2, 3 and 4. You could even see if your child wanted to work toward something really big (I have a friend whose 9-yr-old child gave up candy for A YEAR in order to get a Nintendo 64!). Such a reward system not only motivates your child to do whatever it is you want her to do and she is reluctant to do, but also teaches your child the value of saving and delaying gratification (you can reward yourself immediately with a gel pen, or save your credits and get a set of watercolor paints or a Nintendo 64!) which are important life skills.

Good luck!


Statistics on obesity and TV:
* The incidence of obesity was highest among children who watched four or more hours of television a day and lowest among children watching an hour or less a day. These results were reported in a study by researchers at the University at Buffalo, Johns Hopkins University, The National Cancer Institute and the Centers for Disease Control (Crespo, 2001).

# In analyzing the data from a national survey between 1988 and 1994, researchers found that the 26% of children who watched four or more hours of television a day had significantly more body fat than those who watched less television. The more time children spent watching television, the greater their weight increase (Andersen, 1998).

# Another study found that 60% of the overweight in children, ages 10-15, may be due to excessive television viewing (Gortmacher, 1996). susan


i am so glad to see your posted message, your concern for your daughter's health. so often, the long term effects of childhood obesity are overlooked because a child appears healthy for now, the present. stanford university houses the stanford center for research and disease prevention. they have a children's weight control program. please call cindy zedeck at 650.725.4424. the group meets weekly (parents and children separately) during which there is healthy eating education and support for both the kids and adults. good luck. jennifer
You might be interested in a new book out this year called ''The Parent's Guide to Childhood Eating Disorders.'' It apparently focuses on disorders such as anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder rather than weight-loss techniques, but it gives advice on developing healthy attitudes toward food, exercise, etc. I haven't read it, but it was written by a friend of mine, Nancy Matsumoto, who is a very responsible journalist, in collaboration with Marcia Herrin, Ed.D., M.P.H., R.D., who is the founder of the Dartmouth College Eating Disorder Program. It's published by Owl Books/ Henry Holt & Company. Susan
This is an age to be very careful about weight issues for girls. Before their period starts, girl do have a rapid weight gain, it is a natural physiological process. However it sounds like there are also other concerns regarding weight in your household. A good comprehensive program is Shapedown, it is offered at UCSF and you could probably call them to find out East Bay locations for the program. I believe there are other weight control programs for kids and you might call a few local hospitals to inquire what they might offer.

Be kind to yourself and your daughter; there are also resources available on size acceptance, as our culture is very unaccepting of larger sizes. Joanne Ikeda who works with EFNEP is a leader on this issue. EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program) has an office at UC Berkeley, I believe. I hope this is enough info to get you started on your search. Good luck. Dietetian


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