11 Year Old Boy Gaining a Large Amount of Weight?

Updated on August 28, 2018
L.R. asks from Georgetown, MA
12 answers

I am getting a little concerned that my eleven-year-old boy is putting on too much weight through the mid-section. He was underweight during his first two years of life and the pediatricians kept encouraging me to increase his caloric intake, although he has always eaten a variety of food including many vegetables.

Until about the age of 9, he remained very skinny and on the short side for his age. He was also pretty active because he enjoyed playing for hours outside, riding his bike, swimming and rock climbing. However, since then, he has become very video game addicted. As a result, he does not get that much exercise for a boy his age and he isn't interested in sports, so that doesn't help. Since then, he has steadily put on weight but hasn't grown much taller. Instead of putting on muscle weight, it is mostly belly weight. Over the past two years, he's gone from being a skinny kid to kind of a chubby looking kid.

I realize that he is growing and this may be a part of his development, but I'm concerned that he will have a weight problem in the future. Do others experience similar things with pre-adolescent boys? Will he thin out on his own, or is this cause for concern?

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answers from Chicago on

My oldest 11 year old has a belly too! She has always been super thin. Part of it is gaming, but part of it is also the age.

We try to get some form of physical activity every day, even if it's just a walk around the block.

But we had the same thing here. She would swim two times a week, judo another two, and now? A whole lot of nothing.

With that said, most of the kids I know at this age have a belly. I remember having a belly in 5th grade- never had one before.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I would not be concerned about the weight. However, I would be concerned that he is spending too much time in front of screens. He doesn't have to play sports, but he could join boy scouts and do hiking and camping, or your family could spend weekends at local parks walking/hiking/fishing/biking/etc. I think you should focus your energy there, and develop a plan for fun family outings. In addition, you can develop and enforce rules that limit screen time.

Focus on life-long healthy habits, not weight.

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answers from Boston on

Limit the game time and get him outside. Do things as a family to stay healthy.

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answers from Portland on

They do stretch out as soon as they shoot up - which happens later in middle school (for mine). My boys had spurts around 13 on I would say. So that start of puberty age (around where your son is) is kind of when they fill out.

If he's not doing much activity, and is pretty sedentary - then yes, he'll thicken up. Mine were pretty active - mine do sports so I can't say we had that, and were always outside and on bikes, etc.

I'd encourage him to be a bit more active is all. I wouldn't mess with diet too much if it is ok - because even boys have food issues these days (and become body conscious - I notice it with my sons' friends).

I would just try to get him outside more and off the video games quite so much. He will find ways to entertain himself - I used to say 'enough' and they would miraculously go outside or call up a friend, or something. Would he be interested in another activity, even if it wasn't sports related you could interest him in?

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answers from New York on

I'm really not trying to be snarky, but I don't understand how you can be more worried about a few extra pounds than the fact you admit your son is "very video game addicted." Why aren't you focusing on that (which would obviously solve the weight issue).

Limit screen time to 60 minutes a day (including TV time) and honestly your child will be a better human being for it.

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answers from Boston on

I thing bodies change a lot at this age.

The problem, as you have identified it, is not just that he plays video games, but he is "addicted." Read up on brain changes and the lack of creativity, and decide if it's a good idea to have unrestricted screen time.

I would NOT tell him you're limiting video games because he's putting on belly weight. I would tell him that it's not healthy for his head to do anything in excess. He doesn't have to join a sport to get active. He can ride a bike, rake leaves, do yard work, learn to do laundry and a whole lot more at 11. This is not punishment - these are life skills.

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answers from Boston on

Ahhh the summer of Fortnite, right? My 12 year old is kind of chunky too so I totally get your concern. He was the smallest and thinnest of my kids and started getting heavier a few years ago. Right now he could easily stand to lose 10-15 lbs. He does play hockey and lacrosse, so that helps a little, but it's not enough. I see my son getting into a cycle where it's a little harder to move because he's getting heavier, so he's more likely to be sedentary, which makes it easier to gain weight, and so on. Honestly over the summer on the weeks that he wasn't in camp I didn't have great plans for him so it's been a TON of gaming and TV for him during the day some weeks.

Once school starts, we limit video games to weekends only but then my kids can just watch TV or are sitting doing homework, etc. (at 12 & 14 they're on their own after school except for sitters who mostly just drive them places) so it's not like they're off running around the neighborhood after school, burning calories. And we live on a busy street so they can't just ride bikes or walk anywhere either, but he can shoot pucks or play basketball in the driveway or toss a football with his brother in the yard.

So...I'm in the same boat. I think he's starting to understand that his choices to be sedentary are affecting his ability to compete in hockey and he's getting self-conscious about his appearance, always wearing a swim shirt in the pool, for example. The next step is to put those feelings and recognition into action and choose to go outside, or stay after school and use the gym (they have a late bus option), etc. In the meantime, we talk about healthy portions, about easing up on treats, and try to go to the park at night, ride bikes, and get out and active on weekends. I don't want to shame him into trying to lose weight (didn't work for me!) but I do hope that a growth spurt and some competitive fire for sports will help him to slim down a bit.

It's hard to accept that this just might be the weight he's going to be for now. My parents make comments to me and it drives me crazy. He's not so heavy that he has health issues, and of course I want him to look and feel his best, but to me, it's not worth making him feel bad because he's not as slender as his emaciated siblings (my other kids are all rail thin).

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answers from Miami on

Ask your pediatrician or endocrinologist. He may be slightly overweight, which may be normal for his age, or he may be obese. Only a qualified professional can tell you which one of the two, and whether his health is in danger. They may need to speak to him about being more active and making better food choices, if he is more than just slightly overweight. That is what happened to my daughter, she was told by her endocrinologist that if she didn't stop eating carb-heavy foods and large portions, due to the excess weight, she could develop diabetes as a teen. We all have metabolic issues in the family, and diabetes abounds. Knowing she'd need daily shots was enough to scare her and she is now making more of an effort to eat less carbs, more veggies, and be more active.

Of course, being more active wouldn't hurt your son, even if he isn't carrying much excess weight on his frame. Buy him a skateboard, a bike, or take him to the park to play basketball with some of the other kids, so he is active. Take him on a walk with you if you can, so he doesn't see it as if he is the only one in the family being targeted for weight loss, tell him it's a way for you to bond as a family, if needed, rather than something you're forcing on him due to your own concerns about his weight. Restrict his video game usage to 1 hour a day and see how that works too, it may force him to become more active just to combat boredom. Bad posture may also be playing a part in this too, slouching can make people look hefty.

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answers from Washington DC on

you don't want to be a drill sergeant, but no good comes from having a sedentary lifestyle. don't focus on his weight, but do try to get the entire family involved with yummy healthy foods and lots of fun outdoor activities.

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answers from Norfolk on

If his diet is pretty healthy then it's time to limit the screen time.
Really - when is being addicted to anything a good thing?

In our house perks are constantly earned by good behavior.
School work and chores and generally helping with anything with a good will means he's earned some fun time (not unlimited fun time) - so decide how much game time you think his good behavior is worth.
Have a limit during school - maybe he can only play video games for an hour or two on the weekend, a little more during a holiday - and of course if the school work is suffering the games resume when grades are better.
Think of it this way - he has his whole adult life to sit in front of a screen - now is his time to run and play, ride a bike, climb a tree, be out getting some fresh air and sunshine.

Our son was never into team sports but he started martial arts in the 4th grade and he's in college and is now a 4th don taekwondo black belt.
11 is a good age to start some other interests like Boy Scouts so he gets some socializing outside of school so he can widen his circle of friends.

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answers from Sacramento on

This happened with our son. At 11 years old, he was in eating disorder treatment and at risk of going on a feeding tube. Then, he developed a better relationship with food. By 14, he was chubby. Honestly, it was nice because he wasn't at risk of being underweight, because that was one horrible experience. At 15, puberty hit and he shot up 5 inches in 6 months. The weight completely balanced out and he's on the thin side again, despite consuming huge amounts of food.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I would make sure he is eating mostly healthy snacks and not junk each day. I would tell him he has to be in one physical activity...such as tennis lessons, swimming, martial arts, ultimate frisbee, a bike riding group, a hiking group, parkour class, golf, rock climbing, etc. Something that gets him moving. It doesn't have to be a team sport (my son dislikes team sports). And last, I would start a family walk every day after dinner...walk a couple miles at least. On weekends I'd always plan one physical activity for the whole family. A good hike, a trip to a rock climbing gym, etc. I'd also set a time limit for video games each day. Good luck. It could just be that his body is getting ready for a big growth spurt...you just don't know though.

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