Berkeley Parents Network
Google Custom Search
Home Members Post a Msg Reviews Advice Subscribe Help/FAQ What's New

Overweight Teens & Pre-Teens

Advice, discussions, and reviews from the Parents of Teens weekly email newsletter.

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Overweight Teens & Pre-Teens & Young Adults


Questions Related Pages

My sweet 13 year old daughter has weight problems, help!!

May 2012

Does anyone have experience with teen weight and skin problems? She has gained a lot of weight in the past year (an Im not sure she will ''sprout up'' to even it out) and her hair and skin are very oily in spots, but very dry in others. Her face has some acne. She also has bumps on her back and backs of arms. I'm thinking of getting her tested for food allergies. I'm not sure who to see. Her skin and weight are causing self esteem issues and I am worried. Please advise!!! Thanks, Worried mom


This sounds like a classic hypothyroidism problem - sudden weight gain and dry skin the most obvious indicators for girls (for boys it's slow growth because it often impacts testosterone). It hits in adolescence. This is a good discussion: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/growth/thyroid.html#a_Hypothyroidism

I suggest you get an appointment with a pediatrician experienced in adolescent issues - and a referral to a specialist. You will need a TSH and T3 / T4 test, but do not settle for a ''this is normal'' if it is greater than 1.

Thyroid results in adolescents can vary widely due to hormonal development, so take the results with a grain of salt if it is at odds with what you're observing.

Hypothyroidism is treated with synthetic thyroid - a tablet a day. It is important to get the proper dosage as too much causes hyperthyroidism and too little doesn't solve the problem.

The ''bumps'' on the arms / back may be keratosis pilaris, a common and harmless but really annoying skin condition in teens. http://kidshealth.org/teen/expert/skin/keratosis_pilaris.html Have your pediatrician inspect it to be sure though. Good Luck


You have all my sympathy, as a concerned mom. You don't say whether your daughter will be receptive to suggestions, but there's no medical reason to tolerate acne these days, so why not go to a dermatologist. Back in the day, as a spotty teen, I was helped by TOPICAL tetracycline.

I wish that as an overweight teen I had known what I know now: that carbohydrates (especially refined flour and sugar) increase insulin levels, which (a) increases hunger, (b) stores food energy in fat cells, and (c) keeps the fat cells from giving up the energy--so on a low-calorie high-carb diet, muscle tissue will get drawn on first.

That's why the most effective weight loss diet I've ever found is also good for keeping blood sugar levels low and steady: a LOW carbohydrate diet-- no grain, no potato, no sugar. Protein at every meal, and snacking on small amounts of healthy fats from almonds, walnuts, and olives, keeps me from feeling hungry OR CRAVING SWEETS. The quality of the protein also matters (a matter of omega-3s), so I prefer grass-fed meat and Clover/Stornetta brand dairy/eggs from Monterey Market. Grass-fed is not the same as organic.

I'm aware that this is contrary to the conventional wisdom promoting a ''balanced'' low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-calorie diet. Please see ''The Doctor's Heart Cure'' by Al Sears for a short explanation, or ''Good Calories, Bad Calories'' by Gary Taubes for a scientific explanation.

If nothing else, support your daughter eating protein with every meal, and snacking on fruits, vegetables, cheese, tree nuts, or olives. All the best!


Dear Mom of 13 yo. So sorry your daughter is having this issue. I'say definately test her for food allergies, but be very aware that one can have food sensitivities too w/ out being an allergy. My recommendation (as someone w/ many food sensitivities but no allergies) is to remove gluten, dairy, sugar, chocolate from her diet. Maybe try one at a time, since all are pretty major things for a teen to eliminate. Most people have no idea of the problems that gluten causes...from digestion to depression to skin and so many ailments in between. Dairy can also play havoc on the system if one is sensitive. You might try goat milk over cow milk. Sugar....what can I say...it's REALLY not healthy stuff as much as we love it. Chocolate (usually accompanied w/ sugar) can cause skin issues and the sugar causes weight gain. It shouldn't be too hard if your daughter is willing. I''d start w/ gluten, then go to sugar then dairy...do each for 2-3 weeks and see what the changes are. You might consider seeing a nutritionist. I can recommend a few if you e-mail me. Good luck june
I feel I have to speak out in follow-up to someone's advice, no disrespect intended. Please, do not eliminate gluten from your daughter's diet to see what impact it will have; if you suspect Celiac Disease, the doctor needs to run test while she is still consuming gluten. Otherwise, IMHO, eliminating gluten from your diet is just the latest trend and leads to false results. When people stop eating gluten for a couple of weeks, and then add it back in to ''see what will happen,'' they will, most likely, get sick because the digestive enzymes will not be there. Then, they have an ''aha moment'' and conclude that they must be sensitive to gluten. False conclusion.

That is not to say that there aren't people with Celiac Disease who need to stop eating gluten. There definitely are. But don't make any such assumption without seeing a doctor first.

A better options, as suggested by another writer is to eliminate the refined carbs including sugar from her diet, and see how she feels. Just sayin'


Healthy approach to weight for 14yo girl

Dec 2011

My daughter is almost 14 and got her growth spurt early. While she was growing in height, her weight was proportional. Now that her growth has slowed she has gotten heavy, especially in her torso, and I'm starting to get concerned. She's not dramatically overweight but I can see her heading in that direction. She's fairly active in sports but that has not seemed to make a difference. We have weight issues in our extended family, and though we try to have a healthy approach to food I'm not sure that's enough. I certainly don't want to do anything that will affect her body image or lead to eating disorders, but I'd like to help her get on a path to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight for her lifetime. I'd love to hear how others have approached this issue with their teens, suggestions for good books on this topic, etc. Thank you. Concerned mom


If your daughter is active and you serve healthy food, I'd let it go. I've watched my daughter, now 21, get thinner when she hit her late teens/early twenties, especially since she had to walk all over her hilly campus. I'm a woman, and I remember losing weight mid-way through high school for no particular reason--just growing up. A little extra weight now does not mean she's inevitably going to keep gaining. My bet is that she'll lose it as part of the growing process.

This may not be as applicable to girls, especially at 14, when growth may be nearly over. But I observed with one of my sons at that age that he would gain weight and be slightly chubby, and then grow and be thinner again. I saw this cycle several times. a healthy lifestyle will continue to serve her well


Healthy Heart program at Children's hospital Oakland is great for teens and weight control kk
I agree with what the previous poster said, that you should model a healthy life style. Don't buy junk food to keep around the house, and try to plan family activities that are active (skiing? hiking?). But I would also like to add: PLEASE do not say anything to your daughter about her weight. She is already getting enough pressure from the rest of society that she is not thin enough. She needs to know that you think she is beautiful no matter how much she weighs. IF it becomes a medical issue, let her doctor raise it. But I think creating insecurity and unhealthy attitudes about food now is a greater danger than obesity down the road. She is growing, it will take her a while to figure out how much she can/needs to eat to maintain a healthy weight and I think you need to trust that she is smart enough to figure it out on her own. Former chubby teen

Encouraging overweight pre-teen to eat healthy

Dec 2011

I'm posting for a friend who is looking for strategies to remove herself from engaging with her son (who's teetering towards overweight) around food. The idea is to have a shelf (refrigerated and not) of food that he can get for himself. The snacks should be low-fat, fruits, vegetables, or leaning towards protein. Individual servings are a bonus. He can do simple preparations (microwave, pour, cut). He's not a big consumer of crunchy, carb-heavy chips or popcorn, so the mom doesn't want to push in that direction. She knows that soon he'll be needing more food, more often and wants to address some unhelpful dynamics before teenage ravenous-ness sets in.

The list we've come up with is: seaweed, baby carrots, snow peas, low-fat cheese sticks, apples, frozen bananas, flavored rice cakes (?), low-fat yogurt cups. He's not a big soup-eater, but she's going to try chicken noodle soup. Obviously, seasonal fruit can be added when available. Ideas from Trader Joe's or other local markets are most welcome. The mom just needs to get out of a constant negotiation about what's getting eaten. Being able to say -- ''you know what's available between meals, it's your choice'' would be a step in the right direction. thanks, BPN


So, we all want our kids to eat well but when thay are teenagers it can seem impossible. However, offering foods that a kid really doesn't like won't help. As a pediatrician and a mom, I don't think those foods you are mentioning are really going to work - unless he loves seaweed and carrots and string cheese (yawn :)). I think wheh a kid really wants a snack and they are a teen, they aren't talking fruit. Those foods likely won't take the edge off his cravings - it will just frustrate him more- and it keeps him munching away when perhaps he should wait for mealtime.

First, if he is teetering on overweight but about to have a huge growth spurt (puberty) he may need a fair amount of food and he may not be overweight at all. I have seen so many slim out as soon as they start to grow. You need to keep him active (very) and watch but not assume a fluffy mid-section means he is overweight.

Offer small amounts of real food that can hold him over. Ask him what HE likes and modify it some to make it healthy. If the answer is salami make small servings of salami and whole wheat crackers. . Mini rice bowls. Quesadillas really satisfy. Half a baked potato with chili - maybe scrambled eggs and cheese in a tortilla - or a homemade McMuffin with an egg, cheese and veggie patty (get the 100 cal muffins and the lighter cheese and it can still taste great) I would just go for denser foods (maybe smaller quantities than he might prepare on his own) if he really needs a snack and I would have him involved in the choices. And I wouldn't freak if it isn't quite what one would hope he would choose - just keep it from being really awful....

If he is truly overweight snacking could be a real problem no matter what it is. Sometimes the answer is to back away from the fridge. In that case I just say have apples around and not much else except great satisfying meals.

I hope this helps. I think your friend is right to get out of the discussion. But I would loosen up the definition of healthy to include more of what he likes. Maria


My background is in the field of nutrition and public health and I have two teenagers. Preventing obesity is important however please recognize that weight gain and growth doesn't always occur simultaneously, especially during the pre-teen years.

Kids can look like they're getting a bit ''chubby'', but then their height ''catches up''. I saw this firsthand when one of my kids was in middle school. Although she was active, she was beginning to look a bit pudgy and my husband and I were getting a little concerned. I didn't want to restrict her food intake since so many girls have body image issues, so we held off. We were glad as within one month, she added a full inch of height! That storage of extra energy allowed her body to support her rapid growth.

Depending on what and when they previously eat and what and when the next meal would be, an afternoon snack may need to be light or more substantial. Extracurricular activities and nutritional needs should be considered when determining what and when kids should eat.

If the child just needs a something light between lunch and dinner this is a great time to serve fruits, veggies/salad, fatfree milk, popcorn, lowfat crackers, etc. Kids can microwave frozen veggies, too. Foods that are a bit more substantial include: cereal and milk, ''yogurt parfaits'', trail mix, nut butter or sunflower seed butter & banana/apple sandwiches, tofu, lowfat cheese/cottage cheese and crackers, leftovers from dinner, frozen/microwaveable burritos, etc.

Some people reach for snacks when they first come home afterschool or afterwork simply just to give themselves a break during their busy day. Just allowing oneself time to relax and reflect on how hungry one truly can help with weight management.

Maybe it would help to seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian. They can be located through your local hospital and online at www.eatright.org. Mom of teens


Weight gain in teenaged daughter

April 2011

My daughter is 17. She has always been very 'normal' about eating-eats when hungry. stops when full. She has never exercised much either. Within the last year she has started to gain weight and is very unhappy about it. Her MD says that metabolism is slowing down right about now and that it is probably just catching up with her. We are now exercising together but the weight is still hanging on. (we know all about nutrition, calories, etc) My concern is this: she is now getting 'weird' about food. It has become 'forbidden' and thus more enticing. She thinks about food in a different way now and I am afraid her relationship with it is becoming unhealthy. (not binging/purging or anything that extreme.) Does anyone have a book recommendation on the subject of food, body image, that sort of thing? I really want to help her help herself but besides talking about things and exercising with her I don't know what else to do. She leaves for college in the fall and I would love it if she could try to get a grip on this before she moves away. anon


There is an excellent book that just came out called ''The Dorm Room Diet-The 10 step program for creating a healthy lifestyle plan that really works'' by Daphne Oz. Daphne is the daughter of Dr. Mahmet Oz, who came to fame on the Oprah show and now has his own show. At the beginning of the book, Daphne describes how she grew up a bit overweight, even though her father was a famous cardiologist and she knew all about what she ''should'' eat, and how to keep weight off. The book is not a diet book at all; it provides solid nutritional and exercise information in a practical, very readable style. It is geared towards teen and college-age girls and provides realistic advice about food, and what to do in challenging dietary situations (for example, you want to spend time with your friends, but they want to talk and eat ice cream at a late-night slumber party). DC

Teen daughter gaining too much weight

May 2010

Hi - this is such a loaded, sensitive subject but I could really use some counsel. I've seen our 16-year-old daughter gradually put on extra weight over the past two years and am wondering what I might do to help her get back to a more healthy weight/lifestyle/mind-set around food. She is very smart, very literate, rather introverted, attends BHS, which has been very lonely and she has never found a niche, a crowd, or even a steady group to have lunch with. Her greatest source of comfort, it appears, are the sugary and floury foods that are available in such abundance here in Berkeley. She used to do martial arts but is not active in that any longer; in fact, she's not really active in very much at all right now. As her mom, I sadly know these issues all too well. I finally got my own act together just recently, shed a bunch of weight, and look back on so many sad, overweight, miserable years burdened by this issue. I try to get both my kids to take walks, ride bikes, enroll in sports, but we are not really a sports, ride-a-bike kind of a family. I cook healthy meals and serve lots of veggies and salads and low-fat but tasty options. I know it took some deep thinking and shifting of gears around food on my part to loose the weight I have of late and I had to come it on my own. And it took decades. So this is a bit of a tangled web, but I want to support my daughter in this area, help her lead a healthy life and adopt a more healthy lifestyle, especially before she goes off to college in two years. This is an upsetting issue that she doesn't want to address. My husband and I both think she'd benefit from therapy, but she says she can't imaging paying someone to listen to her. So that's another, related issue. Any thoughtful advice and/or resources would be greatly appreciated. Caring mom


Although I think it is great that you are providing your family with healthy meals and snacks, I can't think of what could be worse when you are 16 than your mother trying to ''help'' with weight issues. I'm sure your daughter knows she is overweight, and needs acceptance, rather than nudging. I know a number of overweight teens at BHS who are relatively happy and have friends, so I wouldn't assume that the social issues are directly related to the weight problems. I would give her a budget to buy nice clothing, because a chubby girl in pretty clothes is seen by many of the other teens as pretty, or as someone who takes care of herself. If she wants to see a nutritionist, you could try that, if you can find someone who is open to helping your daughter make decisions, rather than someone who is too authoritarian. If depression is a central issue, then talk therapy/cognitive therapy can be helpful (Antidepressants often lead to weight gain.)

If other people ''caring'' was what was needed to lose weight, we would all be thin. anon


While reading your post the same thing kept coming up for me, ''you are the parent!!!'' It seems to me that until she leaves for college you make the decisions. My kids know that playing sports, doing martial arts, something physical, is not an option, it's a must. It sounds like you are doing good work to learn healthy eating and lifestyle habits and you should require your child do the same. It sounds as though you think therapy would help and at sixteen she may not agree, but if sixteen year olds all got to make the important decisions for themselves, we'd have a lot more kids falling apart. We all think we know what's best for us at 16! We don't! Therapy sounds like a good place to start given that your daughter is seeking comfort and solace in food. And it sounds like there's probably some depression given the lonliness factor and the weight issue and therapy can help with all of this stuff. Make sure to interview the therapists well and find a good match for your child, that makes all the difference in whether therapy will be successful or not. She may be ambivalent, but tell her that as her mom you need to make decisions that are hard sometimes but you are doing what you believe is right and necessary to help her get healthy and live a long and happy life. Also, of she's getting the unhealthy foods at school and going to and from, I suggest sending her with healthy snacks and nooney to buy the things that are bad....

Make sure you're enabling her making healthy choices not enabling her to continue down the road she's on now. I work in the field and would be happy to give you some names of people who specialize in this area. D.


Hi, I am the Youth & Family Director for the Berkeley YMCA and I'm wondering if your daughter might consider being a teen member at a place like this? We have about 900 teens here and they are a diverse group - some are very fit, some not. Some parents work out with their teens, but others definitely don't. Teens can take aerobics classes. Since your daughter used to take martial arts, she may like a cardio kick-box class or something like that. Teens, like all members, get free coaching sessions to help meet their goals. Some love to swim in the afternoons afterschool too. If you would like to come with her as my guest please contact me. Or you can always stop by for a tour. Eden 510-665-3238 Eden O'Brien-Brenner eobrienbrenner@baymca.org

Weight Watchers for older teen daughter?

April 2010

My 19-year-old daughter is finally ready and willing to take charge of a weight and fitness issue that has plagued her since middle school. She has decided to make the most of the long summer-break at home and she wants to join Weight Watchers as soon as she comes home from college next month. I have never seen her so ready to be in charge and to make a change on her own and I want to support her as much as possible; I know from past personal experience that WW works really well, but I also remember that all leaders and all groups are not equally motivating. I'd love to hear about specific recommendations from Parents of Teens, especially if anyone knows of a group where my daughter won't be the only ''old'' teenager or young adult present. We live in Berkeley but she can drive to other locations around the East Bay. Hopeful


Weight Watchers in El Cerrito Plaza on Saturday mornings has sessions where I have seen other teens with and without a parent. The leader, Kathy, is ''cool'', funny, down to earth, and a good match for teens who might be more self-conscious than older members. Highly recommended. a WW member
I love Cathy's WW group at the El Cerrito Plaza. The Sat 8:30am meeting is quite full & there is a lot of member participation. I've seen a few young adults but most of the folks who attend are much older than your daughter. Cathy has a great sense of humor, is very humble & real & keeps things lively. Kudos to your daughter & all the best on her journey to a healthy weight. WW regular

Exercise program for obese teenage boy

March 2010

Does anyone know of a reasonably-priced personal trainer or coach in the Berkeley area who has exeperience motivating overweight teens? My 13 year old son is not interested in any sports. He is 50 pounds overweight, and needs a male coach-type who can work with him a couple of hours per day and maybe more in the summer. anon


Please consider the possibility that a high-carbohydrate diet is making your son fat and tired. One way to steadily get rid of body fat (with only moderate exercise) is to eat some high-quality protein and fat at every meal, plus fruits and vegetables, and cut way back on anything made with grains, potatoes, or sugar. (The biology behind this, and why the standard food pyramid is unhealthy, is explained in The Doctor's Heart Cure by Al Sears, which is available from online book sellers.) I bring this up because a personal trainer may give nutritional advice --to bulk up on carbs-- that is appropriate for endurance training but not to lose weight. Also because a high-protein diet is the only thing that has given me power over food, especially sweets.

There are so many summer camps and classes that are fun for kids and keep them moving that are not exactly ''sports.'' YMCA bicycling? Cal's windsurfing and sailing classes at the Berkeley Marina? Classes at the rockclimbing place near Ashby & 7th? Always more fun to do with a friend, of course.

At age 13, your son is likely to have his main growth spurt ahead, which also will help. Be sure he walks to school, walks the dog, etc. Good luck


Contact Dr. Samuel J. Lewis in Lafayette. He is a very well-regarded pediatrician, and a very kind and generous person, who has been involved for some years as a volunteer in a special summer camp (of which I forget the name) for obese boys. This would be going to the top of the profession to ask for referrals, instead of trying to sift through more-or-less qualified providers. - a former client of Dr. Lewis
I recommend Dino Giannakis - he is wonderful to work with, knows from personal experience about weight issues, and is excellent at motivating people. He has worked with my wife, and my teenage son to fantastic success. Here is his e-mail dinog11@comcast.net Good luck! jeff

Weight gain freshman year at college

Jan 2010

My 18 yo son came home from college in NY for the holiday w/ about an extra 10# on his body. I know...''the Freshman 15''.... He's in the middle of Manhattan, has a meal ticket and a debit card...how can you not enjoy the wonderful diverse tastes on every half block of NYC?

His build is like mine...muscular, solid, medium build. The kind of build that can hold a pound or two, but not too many more. He and I talked about better eating habits...he lives in a suite/dorm so has a full kitchen, with a great huge grocery store a block away. He at least was open to hearing what I had to say (I'm very much into good nutrition/organic/maintaining a comfortable weight, and exercising. This is how I raised my kids, w/out being over the top.

He said he needed to learn how to shop, what he should have in the kitchen, etc. He was very active w/ after school sports in HS, but is not doing any exercise now except walking around NYC. I wrote him a few pages of notes, ideas for eating in, eating out, etc. I also bought him a cookbook for college kids.

I KNOW this is so typical. Because I've had weight issues most of my adult life (starting from my 1st year at college) when I look at him all I can see is this extra weight. I haven't said anything to him beyond our discussion. I think I need to leave it alone now...do I? I'll give him the notes adn tell them that the book will be sent to his dorm and tell him he can call me w/ any questions if he has.

I just want my son to be healthy and feel good about himself. Am I projecting? When I was young and overweight I was uncomfortable adn felt bad about myself and got low self esteem.

He loves school, loves NY, has lots of friends. Am I looking for things to worry about? Thanks for any input. Health nut mom


I think that now that you have expressed your concern, it is time to both back off and let it go emotionally. I was upset on behalf of your son when I read that when you look at him, all you see is the extra weight. That is really more your problem than his. Ten pounds is not a big hairy deal; young men can gain and take that much off practically by breathing. But as you point out in your posting, weight has been an issue for you. So I feel that this is more something that you should resolve for yourself, and, after having offered your son guidance on how to eat in a healthier way, you should not press on your son. He needs to feel that you love him unconditionally (which I assume of course that you do), but your inability to see him through the specter of weight gain is blocking your ability to communicate that central fact to him. also a person caught up in weight issues
I gained about 20 lbs as I freshman largely due to my ''health nut'' mom who had never let me figure out my own relationship with sweets. Since she essentially banned sugar from the house, it was always super seductive to me and once I was on my own I couldn't get enough of the stuff. I would say leave the poor kid alone-- maybe food is comforting to a kid who is far away from home. Also, college necessarily involves a lot of sitting around and reading. I should add that in my mid-twenties I found fitness and healthful eating and continue to enjoy good health into my forties! anon
I think you are making a bit much of your son's weight gain and too much attention to it could make him feel bad. It's very common to gain a little your first year away at college and most students shed that extra weight as they learn the ropes of living on their own. He knows he can ask you for advice whenever he needs it, which is a great thing. anon
My son gained 15 or 20 pounds his first couple of years in college because he was eating all his meals at cheap fast food places and no doubt drinking barrels of beer. He got back into shape again eventually. You'd be wise to just keep quiet about it. I am laughing when I remember how I hounded him about his eating when he was a college freshman. I bought him a meal ticket he didn't use, I signed him up for a weekly box of fresh produce which rotted in the corner of his dorm room, and I sent him cooking supplies which went unused. It is hard to let it go but I think that's what you gotta do. G
What you've done so far is fine and is useful. But you're right that now you need to leave it alone. Just send him the notes and the cookbook and say nothing else except ''Here are some notes that might be useful and a cookbook for college students.'' I'd recommend that you don't ask him or talk about it until the summer. You are projecting based on your past experiences, but your son is a man, not a woman, and it sounds like he is really liking his first year of college. So let him! Anonymous
This is tough - you want the best for your kids and you don't want them to potentially go down the same path you did. When hindsight and foresight collide, this is what happens! When he's at home, continue to make available the healthy foods you have, and hopefully everyone in the household will continue to partake of these. While he's legally an adult and off miles away where you can't track his moves, you can only hope that your examples will have set a pattern that he will continue/not diverge from for long, if so. With so much to experience, and being young, hopefully he'll go through a stage where he'll come back to realize that he needs a maintenance of proper nutrition and exercise. What are his friends/peers doing, and are they a big influence on him? Where do they hang out to get a bite to eat? Try to not constantly let him know how you feel, whether directly or indirectly. They pick up on those vibes and take is as a personal affront rather than loving concern.

My husband has battled this for the past few years with our son, who carries extra pounds and who is not one who is fond of exercise. What you eat is the bigger matter. The biggest practical thing to do is to introduce foods with lower intake of sugars and carbs that he is also able to easily get when back in school. If needed, send care packages of stuff he can't get but likes that are good for him. There are so many things out there that are loaded with those two that are easy to pack away and not realize that you've consumed a large quantity. Norma A.


Dear mom, I have a teenaged son who is predisposed to gain weight so I feel your pain. The reality is this: this young man of yours will get to deal with this his whole life. He already knows the majority of the things he needs to do in order to achieve a healthy weight. (i.e. eat less, move more)

If he is the kind of person who will dig in his heels and possibly eat more when his mother gives him advice, you must resist the urge to do so.

If not, gentle reminders are always appreciate by my 14 year old son. For example, one hour before dinner he is 'starving' and forages through the cabinet to get a snack. I will simply say ''dinner in an hour-can it wait?'' That is enough of a reminder without sounding punitive or negative.

If he does not choose to heed my advice and eats snacks before dinner anyway, I tell him that I disagree with his choice but of coure don't control his eating--only he does. It is great that you are looking at your own issues around weight and that you can see that there is a connection. Recognizing this is step one. Next step is to try to take yourself out of this equation completely....good luck!

Please note that he DOES want my feedback and has 'given me permission' to comment on habits I see that might be contributing to his weight gain. When he eats anon


Fat Camp recommendations for 13-year-old?

March 2009

We have a 13 year old who complains that she's too fat. Her legs and feet hurt when she walks too much. I would say that she is about 20 pounds overweight. She's about 5 feet tall and wears a woman's size 16. We try to guide her without making her feel bad about herself. We have heard that there are some excellent summer camps that build self-esteem while also providing support and tools for weight management. Suggestions? Marilyn


Please take a look at this website: http://www.thebodypositive.org/. This is a fantastic local organization that has worked with many teen girls to address the issues your daughter is struggling with and may be able to help her figure out ways to address her concerns through their various workshops and other services. Body Positive Fan
This is not what you are going to want to hear, but...

I am 5' tall, a healthy weight, and wear a size 2 or 4 petite. The ideal weight for this height is between 95 and 110 pounds. Your daughter, wearing a size 16 is not just 20 pounds overweight, in fact she is most likely obese, or at the very least, very close to it. Being overweight/obese at the young age of 13 is already damaging her health and her long term health outlook is extremely poor.

To help your daughter you need to break through your denial and face the painful truth. You probably need to dramatically change your home environment, both physically and psychologically. This is a family problem, not hers alone. As a parent, you need to step up and recognize that someone, and if not you, who?, needs to provide better family health leadership/management.

I suggest that you start working with an obesity specialist/therapist who can help you identify the root causes of your family's health imbalances so that you can make specific system-wide changes that will help your daughter lead a healthier, happier, life.

On the bright side, since she's only 13, her metabolism is relatively high, and will remain so for another decade, so loosing weight at this age is a lot easier then for a middle aged adult. former fatty


What to say to an teen who overeats

Feb 2008

I have a 14 year old girl who has always been very happy, outgoing, friendly, with lots of attention from boys. Lately, however, I've noticed that she doesn't get many phone calls or invitations. She seems unhappy, insecure and increasingly lazy. Sure, she's a teenager, but unfortunately, she has also gained a lot of weight (maybe 20 pounds in a year and a half). She loves to dance, but is not doing that well, I think, because of the added weight. We eat very healthy (and fairly low-calorie) meals in the house (healthy breakfasts and sitdown dinners with lots of vegetables every night), but with my 14 year old, it's the quantity that's the problem. Instead of one bowl of cereal, it's three. When I ask her what she eats at school for lunch, it often sounds like she has a four course meal. I've eliminated junk food from the house (we're down to only having dessert on Friday and Saturday nights), but nothing seems to help. On the nights we have ice cream, she will eat almost an entire pint. At this age, it's very hard to control how much she eats.

My question is, what do I say to her to help her lose weight and change her eating habits? Whenever I try to get her to stop eating so much, she says I'm trying to turn her into an anorexic. Come to think of it, I think the overeating problem started not long after a lecture at her middle school by someone trying to prevent anorexia in teenage girls. I really want to help her, but don't know how. Anon.


Hi, I have a niece who was seriously overweight until she was 14. Nothing anybody would say to her made the slightest difference until she decided to do something herself. She joined a gym, changed her diet, eliminating simple carbs and refined sugar, and put up photos of what she'd like to look like inside cupboards. She's 18 now and still keeps the same diet. Hope this helps. J.
Dear Anon, While you may think you know what your daughter needs to do, you do not. Please just STOP trying to control her eating behavior. You're doing your job, providing healthy meals. Your daughter is learning about her own body and it IS her body, not yours. So just be quiet. You might find that the weight issues may be yours, not hers. Frankly, a 20 pound weight gain as a girl goes into puberty is not that out of line in our culture. Sure, our culture isn't very healthy around food and health, but your daughter has to learn how to navigate her culture. You are providing a good role model (I assume, from what you describe about your family's eating habits--do you eat enough, do you exercise--but not over-exercise--is your own body weight healthy, that is, not underweight or overweight? Then you've done your part.) DO NOT get into a power struggle with your daughter over her weight. She'll figure it out.

And you know what? Boys, dates, social stuff--if she isn't accepted as she is, then how worthy are these people and should she/you want them in her life? Mom, she needs YOUR acceptance and love as she goes into the teenage years. Just take a deep breath and say three times: I can't control it and I can't cure it and I didn't cause it. anonymous parent


12-year-old is 25-35 pounds overweight

March 2007

I have an 12 year daughter who is 25-35 pounds overweight, and it's getting worse. We rarely eat out, buy healthy/organic foods. Because of afterschool tutoring, homework, parents long work hours and two other children our days are long and exhausting. I'm wondering if there are any gyms or classes that specialize in helping overweight children. I saw some sleep away summer programs but they are to expensive and I doubt Kaiser would pay. These are the things we have tried: nutrtion classes, restricting unhelathy food intake, some excercise in the evenings- both pareents work every weekend, she used to swim 3-4 times a week-it didn't really help and there is no time for it now. I stopped naging but she's becoming more aware of her body and is very unhappy. I am more concerned for her mental well being and health. We need something intense and consistent maybe during the summer? Or anytime. Have any other parents dealt with this issue? Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Signed: worried mom


Just stop worrying. Your daughter is 12, so she's probably worried enough without your worries multiplying hers. Some girls gain weight just as they go through puberty. Most girls don't, but for those who do, it is normal. It seems to happen most often for girls with particularly curvy figures. Trust me--my mother was a size 4 all through her teenage years, and when I went up to a women's size 12 at age 12, she panicked and worried, and completely stressed me out. I think it was really more about her idea of how I should look than it was about my self-image.

For me, the weight came off easily around the time I entered college. I weight about the same as a 30-something mother as I did in 8th or 9th grade.

Meanwhile, the best thing you can do is to exercise WITH your daughter. How much exercise do you get? Do you run? bike? include her in whatever excercise you do. still fitting into my Bat Mitzvah dress


It sounds like your daughter is depressed or unhappy about something. Is she the middle child? Does she need more time with mom and dad? You said your days are long and exhausting. I hate to say it, but maybe you need to re-evaluate the whole family structure and see if there's a way for you or the other parent to be around more. I can tell you that as a kid who was nagged by her mom about her weight (and I was not even close to overweight), I have lifelong issues. So tread carefully, mom. I know the whole world is going nuts over childhood obesity, but there is something to be said for positive acceptance of her body no matter what its size.
Wanted to address your ''overweight'' daughter concern. I'm 43, been Obese all my life, and I hate it. Part of this is genetics; I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome...and HIGHLY recomend that you get your daughter checked out for this...especially if she has irregular periods. The other part is environment. What's going on in the house? Are you taking her on walks, hikes, are you an active family. My parents were couch potatoes...so am I. Lastly, love her JUST AS SHE IS...the more you tell her she's fat and ugly (not necessarily those words, but the intention can still be there) she will BE fat and ugly. When I look back at my younger pictures, I see a beautiful child and teen...but I never heard that or saw it back then. If you would like to talk, please don't hesitate to email me. D
I would recommend Ellyn Satter's books on eating and weight issues. One of my favorites is ''How to get your child to eat...but not too much''. She discusses helping children learn to regulate their own eating, eat a variety of foods and how to help parents and children accept the child's body.

I would also recommend the ''Health at Every Size'' journal. Weight is similar to height, mostly influenced by genetics and fairly immutable. Most people who become obsessed with weighing less at your daughter's age end up either with an eating disorder or gaining weight beyond their genetic set-point because of frequent dieting attempts. I would encourage you to help your daughter feel healthy and happy in her body right now. Check her previous height/weight charts with her doctor. If she has always been heavier, this is probably her body, she is not overweight for her set-point. If she has gained recently, it may be her response to puberty or a growth spurt. She also may need some support in self-regulationg her own eating without guilt, shame, good foods or bad foods. Either way, most diets lead to more weight gain.

Engage in healthy family behaviors, do not obsess about weight (hers or yours), and help your daughter feel good about herself as a whole person. Good Luck, Eating Disorder therapist


Oh, I feel for you. I was a fat kid...went to Weight Watchers for the first time in the 3rd grade.

My biggest comment to you is: don't harp on her weight. Don't judge her food choices, even if it kills you. It makes it worse--if she's using food to cope with her feelings and she feels judged, etc, she'll sneak and eat in private.

Read Overcoming Overeating (and I think the authors have a book for kids, too) and see if it helps you understand. You're doing all the right stuff...try to get her active, try to find something (even if it isn't physical) that she can throw herself into and be excited about.

Best to you-- this is a tough road. Been there.


I feel for you. I have a niece who is now 19. She was always about 10% to 20% over her ideal weight until high school, then became about 50% over her healthy weight in high school. She ended up having a lap band put in. My sister and I have talked about it and what she said is she wishes she had made the following small changes: No fast food, ever. Keeping a stock of food that my niece could eat anytime she wanted but asking her ''Are you hungry or is something else going on?'' and not making food a reward for anything.

I asked her about weight watchers because I am going now, nearly all the women in my family are overweight, and she said that when she mentioned it to my niece at age 9 or 10, my niece said ''why can't you just accept me like I am, why do I have to be different?'' So she gave up on the idea. That said, we have had several 10 - 12 year old girls at weight watchers who have lost between 20 - 25 pounds and have become lifetime stars.

I hope some of this helps. My niece said that it's really hard for her now that she has lost 60 pounds because she realizes that people now say hello to her when she walks into a room and she knows that they either didn't see her when she was heavier or chose to ignore her when she was nearly 300 pounds.

I applaud you for trying to help. It seems that you're doing many of the right things. Good luck to both of you. Aunt to a Terrific Niece


If your daughter is a healthy eater and an active child, I think you should not worry about her weight. She is entering puberty and emotionally and physically changing rapidly-this is not a good time to put her on a diet. I went to fat camp when I was 12 and it was one of the most degrading and horrific experiences of my life. I felt abandoned, ugly, shamed etc. I did not want to tell my friends where I had been that summer and any weight I lost was re-gained within a matter of months. I suggest you read Ellen Satter's books as well as check out the website bodypositive.com. You should also know that the BMI is a human created measure and like the met life insurance measures before it serves little purpose as a measure of health. You should examine your motivations for wanting your healthy daughter to lose weight. Anon
Hi--A quick Google search using the words ''Kaiser Permanente kids weight'' turned up several programs that Kaiser sponsors or offers a reduced rate on. Kaiser tends to be really good with the preventative approach. You should call your local Kaiser's health education office to see what they're currently offering for your child. Anonymous
My suggestion is to enroll your daughter in an fun, active summer camp in keeping with her interests. There's a Shakespeare camp in John Hinkle Park off the Arlington, that my child has attended for two years. All day long, they are rushing up and down the hill, doing stage combat and acting out scenes. Lots of fun, and they don't even notice that they are stronger after the two weeks. The Cal camps are also very active, if your daughter has one she's interested in. Or what about an overnight camp. Just in the normal course of hiking and swimming your daughter would get plenty of exercise. Also, her food choices would be up to her, and both of you would experence less stress about her eating. As an adult who attended weight watchers in high school, and many times afterward, I can't say that it was particularly helpful, and I continue to be significantly overweight. My child is normal weight, which I attribute to encouraging her to be active, and having reasonable food choices around (including some treats) without restricting her eating. it's her body
2001

Need suggestions for getting daughter's weight under control

Does anyone have suggestions for teen weight control ? My daughter has a weight problem which seems to be only getting worse. I think she is in denial about it. All my efforts to get her involved with sports ( she was athletic) have not worked for one reason or another -- a hurt ankle stopped swimming, She did not make her school's sports team she tried out for. So we are in a vicious circle. I have tried monitoring, I have tried patience and support. I am concerned for her, not for cosmetic reasons but for health reasons and because I feel it is inhibiting her activities and growth as a person. I think her eating comes from emotional issues related to pre adoption experience. She is in therapy. I would love to hear from parents who have successfully helped their teen children deal with this problem. Anon.
My background is in Psych nursing and I worked with adolescents with eating disorders. As I am sure you have realized it is a touchy subject. First, I would check with your daughters therapist. Is this an issue they have discussed and would she recommend initiating any program or weight loss at this time? It is possible that your daughter is depressed and as the depression resolves the weight will be less of an issue. If she has recently broken and ankle and not made it on a team, she may be feeling out of control and need other areas of her life to bolster her self esteem. Meanwhile, is she getting any exercise? Would she be inclined to go to a gym or use a treadmill in the home? Second, I would buy a book on the subject to inform myself..there are some good ones out there and one that is recently published...author might be Laura Mellon. Third, I would suggest contacting a nutritionist who specializes in adolescent weight issues. I would consult with her and see what she recommends. Laura Mellon was associated with UCSF but there are probably others in the East Bay. Maybe there are some recommendations on the UCB parent's web page. This would give you a starting point from which to feel confident about addressing the issue with your daughter. The nutritionist should also be able to discuss exercise and diet concerns with you and with your daughter if things progress to that point. Sometimes it is easier for teens to work with a nutritionist because they develop a relationship with that person and it is not a control issue between you and your daughter. You can then support her choices by buying and preparing the proper food. Finally, it is important to consider your own feelings and your family's attitude toward weight and food. A session with the therapist for you and your daughter's father would probably be helpful. Good luck. Candace
I found that taking a teenager to a nutritionist an outside person who can explain scientifically to the teenager what the health issues are was helpful. I had my two teenagers tested for high cholesterol and triglycerides because it is in the family history including early heart disease. Both teenagers indeed had high cholesterol and one also had high triglycerides. They want to live a long life and could understand what the nutritionist was explaining to them in terms of exactly what dietary changes they need to make. I'm not saying everything is perfect, but I see a change in their choices of which foods they eat ( some of the time). In addition I spoke with the nutritionist prior to my daughter's visit making it clear that I did not want "weight" per se to be emphasized because I know how sensitive my daughter is also she definitely will always be ( I think) a stocky large muscular person that is her body type. Somehow looking at it strictly as a health issue which it is , as opposed to a fat/thin issue seems somewhat less loaded. Good luck! FR
I took my daughter to a nutritionist last year. I think it was worth it mainly for the pep talk - including advice on how much iron-containing foods she should be eating now that she was close to menstruating, as well as other things you would expect. In terms of weight, the nutritionist just spent time with her working out how she could incorporate at least 35 minutes a day of exercise into her life - and I've kept that as a rule of thumb since then. My daughter is in pretty good shape these days, in all ways. Fiona
Home   |   Post a Message  |   Subscribe  |   Help   |   Search  |   Contact Us    

this page was last updated: Aug 13, 2012


BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website! Read more, and see how you can help: BerkeleyParentsNetwork.org

The opinions and statements expressed on this website are those of parents who subscribe to the Berkeley Parents Network.
Please see Disclaimer & Usage for information about using content on this website.    Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network