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My daughters are both quite thin, but my 11-year-old's friend's mom was asking me how to handle talking about weight to her 11-year-old daughter, who is putting on a bit. She doesn't want to make her daughter feel bad about her weight and she doesn't want to create body issues, but at the same time she knows it will be easily corrected now and will be harder the longer she ignores it, and looking back as an adult she feels like she wishes she had thought to start watching how much she ate earlier.

My feeling is that there is no good way to have this conversation, and all you can do is have more active family time - like play tennis instead of go to a movie - and buy better food to keep in the house.

Is there a good way to have a conversation like this?
 

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Well, it can be tricky at this age. Many girls gain weight around puberty. They start to look a little thick and then suddenly they are curvy. My DD grew 4 inches and started to need a bra around her 12th birthday. Both my kids sport a belly before a major growth spurt. So, I resist making any changes until I know. I admit, I got a little nervous with DS 12 who gained a lot this school year. Still within normal range but more girth than I've every seen on my typical rail of a kid. However, I held off and sure enough, he's hit a massive growth spurt and the belly is disappearing.

I don't know what the case is with your friend. The girl might be thickening up because she's in for some growth or body changes. It never hurts to add some family activity and stock the house with healthy food options. I'd certainly do that over talking to her about the weight right now. You'd hate to pick at her only to discover that the weight is a natural part of her development.
 

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ugh. body weight has become such a big issue that we are losing sight of normality in this case.

absolutely as pp said there tends to be weight gain during puberty and even the teens esp. around the waist for girls. wheat belly.

its so hard to figure out the right foods too, as one goes thru different hormones one binges, or eats one thing a lot. so restricting or forcing food issues is not a good thing.

i would say a good way to take care of this - if its even any issues - is to have afterschool activities and keep our kids busy. not necessarily sports or music, but something enjoyable - a hobby.

i definitely would NOT have any conversation with her.

i would check and see does she have a full life. if anything i'd be afraid more of depression than anything else. of boredom.

does she have friends, does she have challenges, does she have a variety of activities or things to choose from.

in other words does she live an enriching life.
 

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DD2 -- at 8 -- is a little younger than this girl, but I have lately seen more of a tendency toward being sedentary that, coupled with her natural love of eating A LOT, seems to have caused her to put on a few extra pounds. I agree with what pp's said about not having a "talk" but just getting more active together.

With dd2, I've noticed that she won't always ask for a high-protein snack like salmon, but will tend toward eating large amounts of starchy foods -- and yet, if I anticipate her hunger a few minutes before she gets her mind set on a particular thing, and just bring her a dish of, say, salmon, cheese, tomato, and carrots, she'll literally scarf it all down and she seems much more satisfied after that. So I do talk with both my girls about protein, and about focusing on nutritious food FIRST before snacking on high sugar or starchy stuff.

About activity, as a very tall 8yo, dd2 is in the phase where playground activities are only fun when there's someone to play and run around with, whether that someone else is me or other kids. She's not longer in that stage of just running out the door and embracing the outdoors and running wild in it. She now needs outdoor activities that are fun and interesting for her, or else she'd rather sit indoors and play computer games. This means that I need to get out there with her and help her transition into finding ways to love the outdoors NOW.

My 13yo dd has already made this transition and now goes out for 6-mile walks most days with our big Lab. I feel confident that dd2 will find her own "thing," but for the moment, she needs my help with it.
 

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I would think about the motives. My guess is that the mom's motive isn't to make her kid look "better" but just to be as healthy as possible. In that case, I wouldn't worry about weight (the outcome.) I would focus on what they do rather than what they see. So start a family health initiative. Invite the kids to make decisions about healthy foods and activities.

I've always struggled myself with this area, and I know that when the focus is on weight, I eat way too much out of stress. The only chance I ever have for change is to focus on gaining a positive (health) rather than losing a negative (weight.) Plus from what I've heard, kids aren't really supposed to lose weight (unless there is a huge problem.) Instead if they are overweight, they should just maintain as their height goes up.

Plus, if you focus on the outcome (weight loss or management) you only have so much control because hormones and many other factors play a part. If you focus on your activity and food, you get to make choices and have control, and can feel empowered by that even if puberty hormones are wrecking havoc on the outcome.

And if the reason isn't health and is instead so her daughter looks better... well then the attitude will carry over and perhaps it doesn't matter what conversation is had. The daughter will get the message.

But like I said, I'm sure the mom is concerned more with health and lifestyle.
 

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My 9yo daughter has recently started to look a little thicker around the middle. But this has also happened before right before a growth spurt.

I've been making an effort to be sure we're more active regularly. During the school year, she's already pretty active between dance class twice a week, gym class, running around at recess and often an after school sport club. During the summer I've had to be more proactive about making sure she's moving.

As far as eating, when we do discuss it its always as what's healthy and better for your body and energy, never use the word fattening. Since she's getting ready to grow she has been hungry often. And when she's picking something that's going to be mostly starchy and not that great for her, I remind her about including some kind if protein or something that will actually satisfy her hunger. Not something that will leave her hungry again in 20 minutes.
 

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Yeah I wouldn't have that conversation. I would just make sure that healthy snacks are available at all times and a lack of sugary or unhealthy fatty snacks available. I would also make sure that as a family, you are all active. Suggest a family game of soccer or go for a hike or chase them around the pool. Mentioning weight is only going to make them think about it and possibly create food issues you don't want. But making sure the entire family is active and eating well is NEVER a bad choice. By the natural method of things, the entire family might see a few lbs drop off.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmandaK View Post

I I eat way too much out of stress.
THIS is the reason why teens need to have an enriching life. or else stress makes them eat and feel depressed and before soon its a vicious circle. life is HARD on teens. emotions all over the place. forgetful. hungry at odd times. cant get enough food to eat. constantly eating.

absolutely make sure not too much junk food i the house. reduce it, dont completely take it away. but keep stuff you know the friends over will eat. we have soda and pizza for dd's friends. dd barely eats any and has maybe half a can of soda. she'd rather eat sushi or pho but she doesnt want to be the weird one.

really the time to pay attention to weight is in your early twenties when suddenly you realise if you keep up how you eat you put on that does not leave.
 

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i would like to know what is overeating for a teen? does such a thing exist?

looking back i can see woah how much i ate. i remember the giant meals i COULD eat which by the time i was in my early 20s i could not do any more.

when dd is on her growth spurt she easily out eats me. easily. she has been like that since she was 4 years old. right before her birthday - woah. my food budget goes sky high. i will never hold back food from dd.

instead i do what my mother did. keep healthy food at home so she eats nutritious food - even if its a lot. 10 apples instead of poptart.
 

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I really don't think there's such a thing as overeating for children and teens -- but there is such a thing as eating too many empty calories that don't really satisfy you and getting to an unhealthy weight-for-height because of that.

I was quite slender as a teen, and my best friend and I would often go to Quicktrip after school and buy a large bag of chips a piece, plus large softdrinks, and gulp it all down while chatting in her car, and I don't know about her, but I think I still went home hungry and ate a full dinner. It didn't seem to affect me then, but it sure started to pack on the pounds later. I remember my shock at learning how small an amount of Funyuns or Doritos really constitutes a serving.

I've also noticed that I'm always hungry after eating a McDonalds meal, in spite of the fact that a meal consisting of something like a Big Mac, large fry, and large drink provides close to a day's worth of calories.But I feel quite satisfied after eating a bowl of cooked broccoli with a little butter and cheese melted into it. Waaay fewer calories but waaay more of other nutrients that my body needs. For breakfast when I'm in a hurry, I'll often grab a large bite of salmon since I usually have an open can in the fridge, and maybe a raw carrot or some celery. This is much more filling than a donut, though I will occasionally binge on something like that.

So rather than urging my child to eat less, I'd urge an "always hungry" child or teen to eat more protein and more food that is dense in other nutrients before snacking on something like chips or cookies.
 

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If anything, focus on healthy eating & exercise. I would not ever bring up the way the child looks or how much she or he weighs. When they are growing, they will go through lots of changes, and as others have said, many kids go through a chubby phase especially right before a growth spurt. It's funny because my coworkers were just talking about this at lunch time. Their kids had gone through chubby phases around 9-12 and then suddenly hit a growth spurt and were thin as rails with no changes in diet; it's just the way the hormones kick in at that age. Making sure that kids have healthy options available at all times and rarely have access to junk food/drinks and make sure that they don't spend all their time sitting around (even if it's reading, that was my vice as a kid even more than TV) and get active. She doesn't even have to make a big deal out of it but start dropping comments like, "It's been so hard to stick to healthy choices with all this stress at work, but it's so worth it when I don't feel terrible afterwards." Or "I'm so glad you are making good food choices instead of unhealthy ones. You'll feel stronger and healthier a lot longer that way."

Be a good role model as much as you can, show them how an adult is supposed to eat, drink, & exercise. Yes, they will eat huge amounts of food as teenagers, but they learn how to adjust their portions by seeing how you eat. If they see their parents eating huge teenager-style portions all the time, they will think they can just continue after they are adults regardless that they are not growing any more and instead packing it into fat.

The focus in America (and many other industrialized, technological-heavy countries) is far too much on looks and far less on health.
 

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I talk about the opposite: "You have a growing body it's so important that you eat a lot of good healthy food!". You are just handing your daughter an eating disorder if you talk about food in a negative way. So she's a little overweight, so what? Does she feel good about herself? Are you providing her healthy foods and providing plenty of outdoor time to run and play? That's all she needs.

Full disclosure: I struggle with an eating disorder.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by lovebeingamomma View Post

I talk about the opposite: "You have a growing body it's so important that you eat a lot of good healthy food!". You are just handing your daughter an eating disorder if you talk about food in a negative way. So she's a little overweight, so what? Does she feel good about herself? Are you providing her healthy foods and providing plenty of outdoor time to run and play? That's all she needs.

Full disclosure: I struggle with an eating disorder.
I like that!
 

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Originally Posted by mamazee View Post

....at the same time she knows it will be easily corrected now and will be harder the longer she ignores it, and looking back as an adult she feels like she wishes she had thought to start watching how much she ate earlier.

My feeling is that there is no good way to have this conversation, and all you can do is have more active family time - like play tennis instead of go to a movie - and buy better food to keep in the house.
I think that the advice to not have a conversation is misguided. Obesity is an growing concern -- 18% of teens are obese, and 30% are overweight. The stats just get higher with age, and they increase every year. I think while the potential for this conversation to go terribly wrong is huge, that we as mothers have an obligation to figure out how to talk to our children. All of our children are at risk for becoming obese because the rates just keep going up and up (if the rates of obesity continue to increase they way they currently are, all Americans will be overweight by 2048) http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/08/28/will-all-americans-be-fat-in-40-years.aspx

The notion that we shouldn't talk to our children/teens because it is difficult to figure out how to do so seems like a cop out when this is, for most of our kids, this is the most likely cause of health problems for many, many years for them.

I talk to my daughters about weight, food, theories about obesity, body image, etc. It's a topic I'm interested in and I share with my children what I learn. We talk about what kind of nutrients are in different foods, and what kinds us foods leave us feeling hungry sooner (carbs) and what foods help us stay full longer (protein and fat). I don't believe the food pyramid is a healthy way to eat, and my kids know why. (Basing a diet on grains is a recipe to get fat and have blood sugar problems).

I think the big thing to avoid in a mother/daughter conversation is any notion that one should have a particular body type to be attractive, acceptable, or loved. None of that is true. However, we need to eat right so we can be healthy and feel good, and the way we treat our bodies - even in our teens -- has an impact on our adult bodies. I also think it is helpful to find ways to be active that we all truly enjoy -- not exercising to look at certain way, but enjoying being in our bodies and using them to do fun things. I personally find it helpful to stay away from talking about what you should do, and instead focus on overall trends in the US and around the world. Making it less personal, staying away from "should", and moving toward looking at the actual studies keeps things low key.

I think that the line that to loose weight one should "eat less and move more" is bogus because there is so, so, so much evidence that it does not work. Eating less causes people to be hungry and eat more later, and moving move causes people to be hungry and eat more later. Most people who loose weight on reduced calorie diets regain it. We need to eat *differently.*

I think there is far more pressure on teens to eat junk food than there is on adults, and I therefore feel it is very important to make it extremely easy to eat healthy at home. I don't think the burden should be on an 11 year old to "watch what they eat," but rather on the parents to watch what they bring home, what they prepare, what habits they model. I also think that "watch what you eat" is very, very vague and therefore not helpful. The daughter won't get anything helpful from that, but may start feeling self conscious about eating in front of others, especially her mother.

There is no consensus of what is "healthy," and the FDA recommendations we've been taught were designed to be helpful to farmers, not to our health.

On the other hand, learning about the changes in our food supply (wheat belly is a fascinating book) and learning what recent studies show (there are several interesting lectures on YouTube, such as this one on "why we get fat"


BTW, we eat Paleo at home, but my kids eat all kinds of stuff when they are out of the house, which I am fine with. I don't have any desire to be controlling with the kids about food, but I do feel the need to balance the pizza and sodas they have out of the house with grass-raised meats, deep green leafy vegies, and healthy fats at home.
 

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Oh, this just makes me sad...

It's not about weight. All the recent studies are showing that our "war on obesity" completely misses the mark, and is just fueling the food manufacturers sales of crappy empty calorie diet foods and the drug manufacturers sales of diet pills and "supplements". It should be a war (though I hate that term) on inactivity and crappy choices. BUT being active and making better food choices is not always going to make you skinny, nor should it. People come in all shapes and sizes - we need to get over it and stop judging each other (and ourselves) for how we look. The research clearly shows that an active overweight person is more healthy and will live longer than an inactive skinny person. So, No - we should not be talking to our kids about weight. We should be talking to them about lifestyle and loving their bodies. It sounds like the OP's friend wants to talk about lifestyle, but is overly fixated on the weight as the impetus for the conversation. If she is concerned about her daughter's lifestyle and feels that she should be doing more to help her daughter lead a healthy life, then I hope she tackles it as such, and spares her daughter the trauma of making this about weight.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sphinxy View Post

Oh, this just makes me sad...

It's not about weight. All the recent studies are showing that our "war on obesity" completely misses the mark, and is just fueling the food manufacturers sales of crappy empty calorie diet foods and the drug manufacturers sales of diet pills and "supplements". It should be a war (though I hate that term) on inactivity and crappy choices. BUT being active and making better food choices is not always going to make you skinny, nor should it. People come in all shapes and sizes - we need to get over it and stop judging each other (and ourselves) for how we look. The research clearly shows that an active overweight person is more healthy and will live longer than an inactive skinny person. So, No - we should not be talking to our kids about weight. We should be talking to them about lifestyle and loving their bodies. It sounds like the OP's friend wants to talk about lifestyle, but is overly fixated on the weight as the impetus for the conversation. If she is concerned about her daughter's lifestyle and feels that she should be doing more to help her daughter lead a healthy life, then I hope she tackles it as such, and spares her daughter the trauma of making this about weight.
Just clicking the "thumbs up" dealie wasn't enough. Great post!
 
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