December 23, 2008,
D.C. asks from West Hartford, CT on June 26, 2008
9 Year Old Daughter Gaining Weight
My beautiful 9 year old daughter seems to be adding on weight in her stomach area over the last 6-9 months. I am concerned about it becoming an issue. The problem I'm having with her is she is constantly asking for snacks. Constantly! If I say "have a healthy choice" which she knows is fruit, cheese, or yogurt, she will keep after me for ice cream, popsicles or candy. I typically allow one "sweet treat" a day, but for example last night I let her have a bowl of ice cream at my Mom's. Then she went to my mother's neighbor's house for a visit (I had left for the night as she was having a sleepover with my mother) and the neighbor gave her an ice cream sandwich, not realizing she had already had a bowl of ice cream. She knew she shouldn't have it and she ate it anyway. She and my son are around different family members all the time, and everyone thinks it is there job to give them cookies or ice cream or whatever. Then I am left to be the bad guy at home, and I feel I am just constantly monitoring her intake. When I try to monitor things in front of family, I always get guilt from them saying "if you deny her, she will just eat it all the time when she gets older". I am really not sure how to handle this, but I know I will feel responsible and it will really bother me if she continues to gain weight. She is an active kid, so I'm not concerned about that part - she is always playing outside, we go walking and swimming often, etc. Childhood obesity is just such a problem these days so I don't know if her weight gain is normal for a girl of her age or not. Help!
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So What Happened?™
Hi everyone! Thank you for all of the opinions and advice. It never occurred to me that this could be the onset of puberty (yikes!) so I am going to research that some more. Her weight is really concentrated in her belly area so that might be part of it. It is just really hard to always be so diligent and trying to keep track of everything, but I am going to stick with it as best I can. Now that she is getting older I am trying to get her to think about her choices, like she should know enough to make the right choice to not have ice cream right after she has already had ice cream, just because someone offers it to her. I am also trying the tip to tell her to drink some water if she feels hungry, right after she has already had something to eat. She had a snack this morning, and 20 minutes later she was like "I'm still hungry" so I told her to drink some water and that would help fill her up. Thanks - keep the good tips coming!!
W.D. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
it's puberty.. she's filling out which girls do first before their bodies decide where the hips and waist should go! just keep offering her healthy and don't dwell on the fat
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C.C. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I feel your pain, I have a child with a disability that coincides with weight gain if I am not careful. I will tell you my opinion (and only my opinion), but has worked so far (and she is 11). Do not make food an issue! (or it will be worse than you can imagine). Don't misunderstand it CAN be an issue with you, but if you make it one with her, she will do things like secretly eat, hide food, lie. I started by not buying those things for my house. Yes the first couple of weeks was horrible and very expensive because you have to have healthy snacks for them and they are much more expensive. However, now the ice cream (really frozen yogurt and/or light version) does not get eaten in one sitting, potato chips are replaced with pretzels and vegetable sticks. Oh and yes, I do not buy anything with artificial sweetner. It is NASTY stuff whose chemical needs to be filtered through your liver...no thanks. I even replaced soda with flavored seltzer water (hard to find without splenda and related crap,but can be done). Stay away from peanut butter! I have peanuts out (as well as different types of nuts if there are no allergies) for a great source of protein and the crunch. I found that if my child eats throughout the day and not just 3 meals, she is fuller and thus no ganing of the weight. Ice cream even every other day after dinner will not add a huge amount of weight if she is keeping her matabolism up by feuling it all day. They even have skinny cow ice cream sandwiches that are great tasting and 1/3 of the calories and fat. My child's BMI is now at 20 and she looks fabulous. Good Luck!!!
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C.Y. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I think it's important to teach our kids how to eat healthy and the value of eating healthy. That said, I was the 9-11 yr old that got really chunky around the middle. As soon as puberty hit that weight redistributed itself, if you know what I mean. I think it's normal for some girls to put on weight right before puberty.
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T.P. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I too have noticed this with my 8 year old daughter. Your story mimicks mine greatly. I have had to get over the family members also doing the same and remember that I am trying to do the best for "my" family. We keep encouraging the good snacks and I never forbid anything due to the fact that I have a friend who has "forbid" certain foods and I see her daughter at others' houses and she can't get enough of these forbidden snacks. Slowly, and I mean slowly, she has come around on many things to eat adding more and more healthy choices.
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C.R. answers from Boston on July 01, 2008
Woah, we've got this kid going from intense therapy for emotional eating, to having an entire family "police" what she puts in her mouth. Ouch, my head hurts. She's 9. Her body is going to fluctuate...until she dies...anyone heard of PMS. Our bodies fluctuate contstantly. You are the mother, your responsibility is to have good food on hand~in your home, and to model a right relationship with food. That's good for both of you! Please, please, please don't tell your entire family that you are worried about her weight and ask for their "help" keeping her on track. What could be worse then to focus the attention of an entire clan on an nine year old's perfectly normal belly. She is still baby. It's called baby fat for a reason. Stop making this an issue. Have good food on hand. Have peaceful mealtimes. Let her be. I absolutely know that you love this child deeply and that her best interest is all that concerns you. TRUST her. Teach her and trust her to make the right choices. She will rise to the bar you set.
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C.B. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
Hi D. - You may not like this answer, because it is really hard to do... I know, because I had to do it for other reasons.
If you have tried to ask your family to behave within the boundaries you set for your family and your child, and they don't... Then you need to restrict their time with your child to when you can be there to observe.
And if they continue to test your boundaries, then you must stop associating with them until they can figure out that it is your job to raise and protect your child and they have no right to undermine you.
Otherwise, stop shopping the inside aisles... Do the majority of your shopping around the edges (all the fresh stuff is around the outside, all the processed stuff in the middle.)
DO NOT buy anything with high fructose corn syrup - start reading labels.
Don't keep the stuff in your house. My daughter loves weight watchers ice cream! Look for the "healthier" stuff and just don't buy the other stuff.
Yes, yes, what about the other people in the family?? Hey! They need to get healthier too!
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P.M. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I can understand your concern as you do not want to instill poor eating habits so early. I myself am very strict with my children's intake and I let my family know it as well. They have to respect the way I raise my kids. I am not one for tons of junk food either. My kids do get it but in moderation.
Now is the time that she has to learn that she can have the junk food but MODERATION is the key. You have to let your family know that they NEED to respect your views and respect the way you raise your kids.
I went through a period where all they would eat was junk,, so,, I just din't buy it anymore :)
As far as your relatives,, simply tell them * if you can't respect the fact that I do not want her having all this junk food, then she can't have sleep overs. I take this very seriously and by letting her eat what ever she wants when she is here, is teaching her that I am wrong and you are right making it very difficult for ME to manage my own child* or something to that effect.
I've let my mom have on accassions where she blatantly went behind my back with my kids. These are MY kids and I will raise them MY way and if the relatives can't /won't abide by MY rules with MY children, guess what,, they'll visit my kids in MY home so I can supervise. Sounds harsh and controlling, but like you said,, you don't want this becoming an uncontrollable problem,, so put your foot down.
Also keep in mind that she will go through periods of gaining a bit of weight. This is her body's way of preparing for a growth spurt. ALL of my 4 kids did this.
I wouldn't worry too too much about a little weight,, just keep her eating habits in check and make sure she gets out of the house , runs and plays for proper exercise.
The rule I have with my kids,, ALL of your breakfast, lunch and dinner needs to be eaten befor any kind of junk food snack.
They don't need snacks all day. If they are that hungry,, sit down and eat a good meal,, not junk :)
P. House manager :)
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H.D. answers from Barnstable on June 27, 2008
Wow! I just read the really diverse array of comments. I agree with the women who think it is the onset of puberty. It happened to me too. It is in your control to let it ride and keep your daughter active with a good self esteem. You are mom. You can't control other people only your reaction. It sounds like she is very lucky to have a lot of people in her life that love her very much. She will be just fine.
C.N. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
hello D. well i'm gonna start by saying you are right to be concerned about childhood obesity, but don't mention the
wieght thing. Instead talk about having a healthy heart and how some food and snack choices are better than others, to promote healthy plaque free viens and arteries. skin, teeth and hair will be prettier if she chooses the healthy stuff to eat etc. at her age a little extra wieght is not a big deal she needs it for her next growth spurt to feed those bones and nourish her brain. you said she is very active, so encourage her to be mobile and exercise with her. I set aside an hour a day to work out with my 5 yr old, sometimes we stretch (simple yoga) and then walk or
play keep away, tag, jumprope games, swim and ride our bikes. what i'm saying is emphasize the exercise not the food. if she sees you drinking water all the time she'll follow suit. just giving up tonic and sugar filled empty calorie drinks will bring results. i lost a few lbs saying bye to soda, it works!Last as a big sister she needs to set a healthy example for her bro. talk about cholesterol and how its kept low to be healthy , offer many choices of low fat and yummy snacks to pack when she goes over the relatives houses and let them know these are her only selections and when she gets back home you are the one THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN DOLE OUT THE ICE CREAM AND OTHER SWEETS. good luck let me know how it goes . chris
E.B. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
Hey D., there might be a couple of things to consider. One of them is, how "active" is she and two, she may be "blossoming" which will cause a little fat in the belly. I have 2 daughters who "started" when they were 10 years old. When did you get your first period? Also other female family members? That is a good indication. Good luck. E.
P.S. My daughters are ages 11 and 22.
S.W. answers from Burlington on June 27, 2008
Your daughter may be putting on extra weight due to the beginnings of puberty. I would suggest talking to her pediatrician. I think as long as she is getting plenty of exercise you shouldn't worry too much. Girls are starting puberty earlier these days and this weight may be her body getting ready for a growth spurt and other changes on the way.
J.P. answers from Bangor on June 27, 2008
Yeah your right about child obesity becoming an issue.It seems as if ice cream is her weakness. Edy's makes a couple different flavors of frozen yogurt that taste just like ice cream with only 3 grams of fat in a 1/2 cup. I buy it for my 8 year old (sometimes I put it on a cone for him) and he loves it! Maybe instead of referring to snacks as "healthy choice" when she says she's hungry you could slice her up an apple with a little peanut butter and sit down with her and have snack together. Kids automatically think of healthy snacks as not a yummy snack but there's plenty of healthy things out there with lots of flavor.
J.C. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
You sound like a great mom - your daughter is lucky to have a mom who cares about her health! Everyone below has given good advice. The only thing I would add is that if she is active, make sure she is drinking enough water. Sometimes our bodies confuse hunger with thirst and we think we want food when we really just need to hydrate.
N.D. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I struggled with my weight as a child. My mother (always thin) would give me advice and try to have me make better choices and it just made me want to sneak. One thing my mother did not do is just be honest with me. I think sitting down and telling your daughter that she seems to be gaining weight might help. You could say that as her mother, it is your job to be sure that she is healthy. (Also, I do think that is an age that girls tend to gain weight and then they grow out of it.) I wish you the best!
P.S. answers from Portland on June 27, 2008
Your question caught my eye as I have an 8 year old daughter who has always had "a belly" ... I am on the other side of your problem ... though I am concerned I get frustrated with my ex-husband who finds it important to point out her "belly" to me all of the time. He makes comments to me that I should be monitoring her food intake more and that she should be more active. My daughter eats very well... fruits, veggies, meat, fish, etc... but she does have a big appetite. She has made comments to me about how she needs to do sit ups to make her belly smaller! I think that is an OUTRAGE! Her step mom is a fitness trainer who is very active. She has a ten year old daughter who said to me, "My mom noticed that martial arts has allowed me to lose my belly fat. When the kids go to martial arts you can just see how the fat comes off them after they have gone awhile." ~ I am all for fitness and healthy choices... but I am not for setting my child up to feel that food needs to be an issue and that body image needs to be her priority at age 8! The way I see it, she will eventually start caring about the way she looks in clothes with peers and she will start finding the activities that she is passionate about. That combination alone was all that I needed as a child to lose the "belly fat". I have had so many conversations with her father about this issue and how I worry it will become a BIGGER PROBLEM if he and his wife continue to make comments. He doesn't seem to understand my side. I may be WAY off ... but my gut tells me that I am not. I wrote in hopes that I could get some more perspective from you and the other moms who write in. Good luck to you.
R.H. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
While denying snacks may make her crave them even more, offering them to her all the time (as your family members do) certainly doesn't help! Ask Grandma, aunts and uncles to be on your side and offer healthy choices (along with the occasional cookie or bowl of ice cream) when they are watching your daughter.
L.O. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
My daughter is about the same age, and I've been noticing the same thing about her. I'm beginning to believe the comments that it is normal before the onset of puberty - as she has not changed her eating habits really, and is EXTREMELY active (constant handstands and cartwheels - even indoors). I haven't tried these two suggestions yet, but was thinking about it. One option is to give her a "treat" token that she can cash in to get her treat for the day. Once she's used the token, she's done. It gives her control as to when and where she wants it. I could even give her enough tokens for a week, and if she chooses to use 2 in a day - then one day she's going to have to go without. Another option was to just start cutting the treat portions in half, guessing that she'd end up getting another sweet treat later in the day anywway. BUT - having said those 2 options, I think for now I'm going to leave her alone. As long as she's staying active, I think it is pre-puberty. Hope you find something that works for you.
L.S. answers from San Francisco on June 26, 2008
Snacking can lead to wanting snacks more, if that makes much sense. Kids can get addicted to suger. I say, if you don't want your daughter to gain weight and it is becoming an issue and you don't think you can deny her icecream and such, then just don't have it in the house. Also, make sure her portions are small and that she isn't over eating. She should eat slowly to get that full feeling. If you are giving her juice, make sure you give her only 100 percent juice and you can water it down or just make sure she drinks water. She should hit another growth spurt, and lean out a bit, but every kid is different. If being overweight runs in the family than I would be concerned and limit the snacks and candy. Also, what is she eating for breakfast, lunch and dinner? It isn't only the snacks that will cause weight gain. There is nothing wrong with being the "bad guy." I would rather have a healthy kid think I'm being the bad guy, than I not-healthy kid think I'm nice. Good luck to you.
J.F. answers from Bangor on June 27, 2008
Before this gets out of hand, have you had her checked at the pediatrician? People with diabetes tend to gain large amounts of weight in their mid section and it is common to crave sweets or sugar filled snacks, not fruits. They are also thirsty all the time. Just something to keep in mind that is easy to diagnose if she has an appointment coming up. I don't mean to make you panic, some children go through that craving, but we have diabetes in our family and that is something that we are more aware of because of it.
Good Luck, J.
B.P. answers from Boston on December 23, 2008
This is a tricky issue. You're absolutely right in my opinion to feed her healthy foods and to be aware of what she eats. Be careful to not hurt your daughter's feelings about her weight; subtly won't work, that can lead to all sorts of self-esteem problems. I'd just keep the subject on health. You have the right to give her rules. You want her to be healthy. Keep up your rules in a nonjudgmental, firm way. But if another person in your home is overweight and eating ice cream, you're not going to make your point.
I'd talk to the nurse at your daughter's doctor's office about the situation when you're by yourself - no children listening. Find out how your daughter's weight fits in with the norms for her height and bones. What did you weigh when you were her age? How about your husband's family - are they tall, did your husband's sisters gain weight at 9? You may discover some pattern. You're now locked in a power struggle over food, which is not good for any of you. As the adult, you need to figure out whether she is overweight, what your fears are, and a better way to deal with them
My gosh, what I would have eaten if I didn't have rules. I was skinny, and my mother was too concerned about that until the doctor told her to lay off. But we couldn't eat anything we wanted. One time I sold candy bars for a charity, and at the end, 120 of them were missing and unpaid for. I think all six of us were raiding them, because my mother gave me the money to make up for the loss.
J.E. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I would say keep a good control/handle on it now. I know that girls go through that awkward phase of gaining weight and then all of a sudden they are thin again. If you are very concerned about it, I suggest you take her to her pediatrician. This could just be a phase and she could be more hungry now a days, but I agree her choices should be healthy choices and you need to get your family members on board with you. Not just for your kids sake, but for everyone's all around. I am sure this is normal, but keep a close eye one it because you would hate to have it turn into a serious health issue. I would say limit the "sweet snacks" to maybe once or twice a week, not once daily. Everything is OK in moderation/portion control. Good luck, I wish you and your family the best.
L.Q. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I would just ask her pediatrician what to do! You also have to remember that nana and grandpa are going to give them sweet treats! I know how you feel you don't want her to start out with bad eating habits now. My mom fed me junk when I was under a year old and I was a HUGE 11 month old and couldn't walk until I was 15 months because of being chubby. I then started to thin out, was always very active (didn't do sports but was outside playing, riding bikes ect). But then I ended up with a thyroid/metabolism issue in my high teens 19-20. I started packing on the weight due to this and even now at 29 am still having weight issues. So I hear you! But you also do not want to deprive them or they will "sneak" food behind your back too! So I say ask your daughters pedi and puberty is one this but she is asking for way too much junk I agree with you! I think the pedi instead of the advice of me and other moms here are best! Good luck I don't want to have to go through this. So far my family and in laws give my 18 month old any and everything & they ignore everything I say! At least he only sees them once a week. At home he gets treats once in a while.
L.M. answers from Providence on June 27, 2008
I grew up always being "chubby". I was 10 years old when I first went to Weight Watchers because my pediatritian (who had a pot belly and smoked a pipe in the office...the picture of fitness...NOT) said that I was overweight and I needed to go on a diet. I am very broad (broad shoulders, back & hips), so even if I were to lose a ton of weight, because of my bone structure, I would never get below a size 10, maybe a size 8.
Because of this "dieting" as a kid...it screwed me up even more because I always felt that there was something wrong with me because I couldn't lose weight. At age 10, I started the life of yo-yo dieting. Which in itself is very harmful. I am now 40 years old, and yes, overweight.
When I had my daughter 5 years ago, I was so excited. She was a big baby, by the time she was 2 she weighed 30 pounds. I was nervous, then at 4 she weighed in at 40 pounds. She is almost 5 and weighs 47 pounds. But she is not fat. She has the same build (god bless her) as I do... Broad. She has a little belly, but she is the healthiest eater I could imagine. She eats fruits, vegetables, meat, fish..heck, she loves Sushi! But she also eats the bad stuff too. I just try to limit it.
I started to freak out so much that she was going to be "just like me" that I started to research all about all the child obesity stuff. I did her BMI and saw that she was "in danger of becoming obese". I was freaking out. So I got a book from Amazon, "Your Child's Weight: Helping without Harming" by Ellyn Sater. It goes in about how if you have done the percentile charts from your childs birth...you will see where the childs percentile is their "normal" weight. So, my daughter is in the 75-80% for weight and she has been since birth. So that is where it is comfortable for her to be. She most likey wont be the skinny peanuts that her friends are, and that is ok. It is the same thing with kids who are tiny (aka... my son!) he is in the 10% of weight and pretty much has been since birth... he most likely will always be thin...
What ever you do, don't tell your daughter that she is fat, or heavy, or needs to lose weight, or god forbid...the old "you would look so pretty if you just lost weight". Support her, tell her that she is beautiful, and try new and different things with the healthy foods. The main thing is to find things that aren't LOADED with fat (some fat is good!!) and that the sugars are low (under 10g is very acceptable). who knows, maybe there is a sugar free low fat chocolate that you can melt, and dip strawberries in!
All I can say from my own history is that if a child is contstantly hounded about her weight, she will be more drawn towards it. I became a closet eater because I didnt want people to see that I was eating. If they didn't see me eat it, then it wasn't bad. Just tell her how beautiful she is and enjoy her...
L.S. answers from Boston on June 27, 2008
I wanted to write and share my thoughts with you as I have such strong feelings about this issue. I am writing from the perspective of having had an eating disorder in adolsecence , having a counseling background and having been a personal fitness trainer
*I agree that you should first check to see if there is a physiological reason for your daughters increased appetitie and subsequent weight gain. That said you should make sure that your pediatrician approaches this in a very sensitive way as to not make your daughter feel badly or that something is wrong with her.
*Also as someone mentioned in one of the posts sometimes snacking on processed foods which consist of simply carbohydrates and sugar cause people to constantly feel hungry b/c they do not satiate the body. Instead they cause a spike in blood sugar which then drops and we are hungry again. Having unprocessed wholesome foods with fiber, complex carbos and protein may help your daughter to feel more satisfied with what she is eating
*Having said all this it is important to realize that if there is not a physiological reason for her weight gain, then it is emotional eating. In other words~ IT IS NOT ABOUT THE FOOD, but instead it is about how she is feeling about herself, you, her dad, her step mom etc. Food is unfortunately "loaded" for most people in our culture and it becomes an outlet for our emotions. So you could surround your daughter with healthy options, but if she is eating b/c she is not feeling good emotionally then she will continue to eat/seek food for comfort
*Regarding her step Mom being a fitness trainer. Again, it is unfortunate that a signifcant number of fitness professionals have eating & body image issues themselves. It sounds like her step Mom has a lack of emotional maturity and understanding that she is putting her standards, emotional baggage and unhealthy expectations on your daughter and hers.
*If you do feel that your daughter is eating for emotional reasons you should seek the help of a therapist trained in eating issues. You, her Dad and Step Mom should be involved. Eating issues can spiral out of control and unfortunately it is increasingly plaguing girls and younger and younger ages. I would focus more on your daughters emotional state that how many pounds she has gained.
I hope that I do not sound harsh or judgemental b/c this is not how I mean to come across. I only mean to share my perspective with the hope of being helpful as you navigate this senstive area.
M.K. answers from New York on June 27, 2008
nothing wrong with the ice cream and sweets
just get her involved with a sport, or physical activity
its normal to put on a bit weight, she just needs excersize
she is hitting puberty age, and growing.
join a sport.
C.R. answers from Boston on June 29, 2008
Hi D.- I work with this kind of issue, but mostly with adults. It may be that she is starting to have some issues regulating her insulin levels (this starts to happen well before any issues with high blood sugar happening, sometimes for many years!) But this can go along with changes of hormones too (puberty, etc.) One of the best things you can do is to control, as much as possible, the timing that she consumes sweets. If you decide that one sweet a day is ok, make sure it is ONLY immediately after a meal of choice. The body processes this much differently than if eaten by itself- it has to do with how fast those sugars enter the bloodstream, and in the absence of things like protein, fat and fiber, it is FAST. This causes a surge of sugar and then a big surge of insulin to clear it, and then a person feels hungry again soon afterwards when the reactive dip in blood sugar occurs. Also, the best meal to work on is breakfast- make sure she is getting a hearty breakfast full of complex carbs and protein- try to avoid things like juice, bagels, muffins, or any sweets whatsoever (except whole fruit). This will help set her metabolic tone for the rest of the day (and help cut down on unhealthy cravings.) It is hard to make changes at first- but the cravings will start to subside after a little while. Make sure to speak with family and close friends so that they are on board with the changes you need to make, and why. Good luck- this is an issue near and dear to my heart!
A.G. answers from Lewiston on June 28, 2008
I'm about to stop buying ANY junk food... If it isn't in the house... then we can't have it. ther are enough birthdays in my family and his to keep us in cakes ALL year long..