How Do I Approach/handle My Almost 6 Years Old Weight Gain?

Updated on May 03, 2016
J.G. asks from Springfield, VA
16 answers

My daughter is almost 6 years old. She has never been extremely thin. However over the past year, she has gained a lot of weight. Especially in her tummy. Her stomach almost looks like a little beer belly sometimes after she has eaten. I don't know what to do. I probably should not have said anything but I mentioned that she had a little tummy but Mommy does too. I know I upset her. I apologized to her. But she said this morning that her feelings were still hurt when I asked her.

I used to give in and let her have a snack when I picked her up from school (even though she had had one in extended care) and then we would eat late (7ish). She wasn't getting to sleep till 10 and waking up at 7. I was very chubby as a kid from 2nd to beginning of 4th grade when I shot up and developed. I hated it. Her father is very heavy (300 pounds). I am normal weight now but had weight issues. I don't want her to develop the same issues.

She does gymnastics and ballet once a week, has started taking ice skating lessons and is in swimming lessons. I try to give her fruit, yogurt or cheese as a snack and she likes cooked broccoli and carrots. (thought sometimes it is ice cream and once in a while munchkins) Sometimes she will say she is hungry and I give in and let her have a snack (last night it was a mango - she ate the whole thing then when I tried on a swim suit, she said that it hurt her belly). I am trying to push water, she drinks skim milk and has no juice or soda. She does eat lunch at school. What do I do? How should I handle any damage that I may have done with my comment and how should I handle it going forward? She is already wearing a size 7 in clothes though she will not be 6 till August. And some of those are snug on the waist and chest. The doctor told me to do the Skim Milk and to cut out the fruit juice and limit carbs at her 5 year check up (they told me her BMI was way too high and she had gained too much).

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So What Happened?

Her pediatrician actually told me to put her on skim milk 2 years ago when she started to gain too much weight. Last year he reinforced that and also told me to cut the fruit juice, fruit snacks, etc and to do whole fruits instead. I have been doing that as they recommended. I am going to just try getting us to all eat healthy and make a game of it maybe. She is getting exercise most days. I'll also set an example by drinking more water. She usually has one with her too.

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answers from Boston on

You are a mom, you are not perfect. If all of us had the foresight to not say off-the-wall things sometimes the world would be a better place. But, we are human.

You cannot take it back, but you have learned to not say things like that again.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

since the doctor mentioned it, and you noticed it, then yes, it's time to take action
It actually sounds like her diet is not terrible, perhaps add in a nightly walk or buy an indoor mini trampoline or something like that. Tell her that you want to get healthier and need her help. Or flat out tell her, ''the doctor said you need to not be more healthy, so we are going to work on that.'' Then have a serious talk with her about how hard things can be when you are overweight and that you don't want her to have to deal with that stuff, but you also want her to know that weight isn't everything.
Good luck.

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answers from Dallas on

OK. You may need help to deal with your issues ABOUT your weight issues. Because - and I'm going to be blunt here, sorry - telling your SIX YEAR OLD she needs to "exercise and work on her tummy" is REALLY, REALLY wrong. I know you're trying to come from a good place, but YOU are the key here, and you need to get a hold of your own weight hang-ups.

She is SIX. You told her she was fat. Don't ever go there again. Because that, right there, is the how you get her on the same weight issues boat. Ask the pediatrician about TYPICAL childhood weight gain and what YOU can expect. Tell the pediatrician that YOU had weight issues and you're afraid to pass them on. They may be able to help or direct you to someone who can.

Provide healthy snacks. Fruit is a good snack. Always have it around. Make sure she gets out to play. Get off the skim milk, now. It has no value. And research shows that the "fat" in whole milk is healthy and can contribute to stable weight - we need certain fats to METABOLIZE fats. Switch to whole milk.

Genetics are genetics. If you and dad are both "beefy" builds with large bones, than she will likely have a similar BODY SHAPE. That doesn't mean she's not healthy. You need to ask her doctor what healthy is and then deal with that. You can't prevent her genetics from showing so you need to relax about that ASAP.

The best way to make sure SHE has healthy attitudes about food and her body is for YOU to get one. If you need help to do it, get it ASAP.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would consider a referral to a dietician or nutritionist - most physicians know very little about nutrition, actually. The good ones admit it, but most have never even had a class in it. For example, the skim milk argument has recently come under question - our obsession with low-fat foods has resulted in us not being satisfied by fats that take a long time to digest. So we're hungry again too soon and we go for the next snack/meal.

Don't avoid fats - she needs the healthy fats, which you are already giving her in other dairy (cheese, yogurt) but try adding nuts, avocado, and olive oil. For example, make your own chicken nuggets or fingers by cutting up chicken breasts and dipping in egg and then wheat germ (or a wheat germ/flax meal mix), then quick-frying in olive oil. I just crisp up the outsides and then put them on a rack on a baking pan and finish them in the oven. Sweet potato or even white potato oven "fries" (or mix/match the potatoes) drizzled with olive oil and maybe a favorite herb (we like dill) make a nice accompaniment and satisfy the "fries" craving. You can make her carrots and broccoli the same way.

For dessert/snack, try putting plain cocoa powder right in some vanilla or plain Greek yogurt. It's a creamy alternative to ice cream, and the cocoa only has about 5 calories in it. If she wants soda for a treat, you can use plain seltzer or add in a squeeze of lime/lemon.

I make a smoothie every morning with my nutrition shake - I add in frozen fruit (cheaper than fresh and perfect when you're grinding something up in the blender) and sometimes spinach or kale (just grab some from the bag of frozen stuff in the freezer unless you have it fresh on hand). It's a great way to use up something that's a little soft but not spoiled - the soft strawberry, soft peppers, squishy grapes, etc. Put in some almonds for the healthy fats. You can add the plain cocoa there too.

You can create your own pizza with store-bought dough, and get her involved in making/helping. If you have a farmer's market near you, take her to help choose some new things. There are great alternatives and ways to "hide" things - eggplant slices baked/grilled and then rolled up like lasagna rolls, zucchini grated into spaghetti sauce, spaghetti squash instead of pasta, and so on.

What concerns me is that her tummy hurts after she eats - sounds to me like she is taking in too much at one sitting, and doesn't really feel satisfied. That's where those healthy fats come in. Some peanut butter in celery sticks is a good snack too and great for lunch boxes. Be sure she's getting protein at breakfast - eggs are an excellent source, far better than cereal and milk even if it's skim.

As for your remark to her, I think you have to be honest about it - you said it without thinking, it was a throw-back to your life as a heavy kid. It's a good example of parents not being perfect, and of repeating what was done to them. It's also a way to open up an ongoing discussion (over the next 10 years) about the body images we are given by others, the media, the fashion industry (which has notoriously low sizes, by the way), TV shows, and so on. Look at pictures of Marilyn Monroe, when a size 12 was normal! What has happened to us?

Let her know that your body changed a lot and hers will too. Keep up the activity and try to do some things together.

It sounds like your daughter has two other issues that need attention - a very late bedtime after a late dinner, and a very overweight father. I don't know how much you can do about those things. If he can get walking with her, and if they both get away from the TV and take hikes or throw a ball around or plant a garden, it will be a great experience. Not all exercise needs to be in structured classes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

If your pediatrician thinks she is otherwise healthy, you may want to either speak with a pediatric nutritionist or at least take a look at the USDA nutrition website This will give you a better idea about what constitutes a 'serving size' for a child her age. She should also be getting at least an hour a day of good physical activity. From what you say, she might be if she is getting 1/2 hour at recess plus gym plus extended care (I assume they play outside, but if not see what you can do about it) and the other after school activities you list.

As a general guideline, we should all be eating a lot more vegetables, more fruit, more whole grains and way way less meat, dairy, processed foods and sugar. At 6, she should have snacks, but something like carrot sticks, broccoli or snap peas are a better (and lower calorie) choice than cheese or yogurt.

While body image is very important, preventing obesity is HUGELY important and you are right not to just assume she will be fine. From what you added, your pediatrician is concerned, so you should be too. Our approach has been for DH and I to eat a much healthier diet so DS just sees that as how we should eat. We drink water (and coffee), DS drinks water most of the day and milk with breakfast. Juice is a rare treat if we stay at a hotel with fresh squeezed OJ. Otherwise, we eat whole fruit.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

My kids wear a size up always in their clothes. Not overweight. So clothing size isn't always an indicator. However, you mention BMI so if your doctor is saying overweight, then I get why you want to nip it in bud.

My relative is a registered dietitian who specializes in pediatrics. She spent 5 years studying nutrition at college and a year of internship. So they can better advise you than most physicians who typically spend a couple of weeks studying nutrition. My relative can
look at your diet (you just keep a log for a week or two) and tell you exactly where you need to cut back. She doesn't recommend diets or doing anything drastic. Typically with most people and especially kids, it's hidden calories.

I will add, my relative will have a piece of cake for lunch some days - because she's human. She eats chips. She doesn't monitor what she eats. She exercises but she doesn't always eat her beans. It's about moderation.

You mention your daughter is pretty active. So that's good.

Just recently I noticed I was worrying about my child - and my kid is happy as can be. That's because of an issue I have. Not my child. We all have the potential to do this. You recognize you have weight issues (in your head) and that's the first step. We've all screwed up and said something we wished we hadn't with our kids. Usually out of love :) But if needs be, you can talk to someone about your concerns from your own childhood if you feel it will help. I am going to see a therapist for something similar.

Good luck :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I agree with others who have said do not mention weight gain or having a tummy to your daughter. She should not even think that is a bad thing at her age. My 6 year old daughter is very proud when she gets a belly after eating. She will stick it out and pat it and act very pleased with herself saying look at my big belly mom! And I just tell her awesome! You ate your dinner and are going to grow! I just don't ever say anything negative because she should be happy with herself just the way she is. Just keep your daughter active in life...make it a lifestyle! Sign her up for a soccer league, ice skating is great, a sport like basketball or swim team, etc. In the evenings or on weekends be an active family all together...go on a bike ride or walk every day. I am a big believer in making sure kids get fat in their diet...they are growing and need fat for their brain, nerve development, etc. Also, it helps you to feel full longer so you don't want to snack all the time. I would not do skim milk. We do 2% milk...and just recently switched from whole milk. It's not that much fat...whole milk is only 4% milk fat. I would make sure she isn't snacking on sweet sugary snacks or baked goodies a lot...the snacks you mention like yogurt, whole fruit are great. My daughter loves cheese and crackers, avocados, hummus and veggies or pretzels, turkey sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly on whole bread etc. Get her a cool, sporty water bottle in a fun color with one of those built in flip up straws. My kids both have one and they love makes them drink a lot more water bc they love their water bottles so much. My kids are often wearing clothes in one size larger than their age. Don't worry about that. It sounds like you are projecting your own worries onto your daughter...I know, we all do this to some extent!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Amarillo on

I understand the issue of what a woman should look like. I was raised by my mother's sister after her death. My aunt always had an "image" of what my cousin and I should look like and what we should eat to keep the weight off. She started this at an early age so I understand where you are coming from.

You state that your daughter's dad weighs around 300 pounds. Could this be part of the genetic package and the other not caring about appearance? If part is genetics then your daughter will look or be a bit heavier then the "average" child whatever that might be.

It sounds as though you daughter does get exercise with what she does. How well does she practice her gymnastic routines and ballet? Her swimming might be her savior as she will use all of the muscles she has to swim and it can be slimming.

Is there any way that you can cut the late snack and change the dinner hour? That might be a key to her getting enough food and then changing the hour of her going to bed. She still needs to get a set amount of hours of sleep in order to keep the body functioning and the brain working properly.

Just try to keep your comments to yourself about the weight and the appearance of her body. Be kind and gentle and let her know that you said something and that it was from when you were growing up. Make it a learning moment where both of you make amends and do things together to put the hurt feelings aside. It won't happen overnight but it will heal over.

Good luck to the whole family. Keep us posted.

the other S.

PS It does sting when the words are said. It also feels bad to be the kid in the classroom that has to go to the "chubby" department to get clothes because the cute ones don't fit. She could also be getting ready to do a growth spurt and shoot up a few good inches.

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answers from Springfield on

I would talk to her pediatrician again and get some more specific information. My two boys have vastly different body types, and my ped has always said they are both very healthy. My 9 (almost 10) year old is crazy skinny and not too tall. He is only an inch or so taller than his brother and about 20 pounds lighter. My 9 year old is small for his age, and my 7 year old is big for his age. They are about 2 1/2 years apart and often confused for fraternal twins.

One thing I would absolutely do is believe her when she says she's hungry. Kids have this amazing ability to listen to their bodies. If they are full, they will not be interested in eating. Now if there are cookies or other sweets available kids will often say they are hungry even if they are not. As long as the options are always healthy, don't worry about it. If she's only after sweets or things that wouldn't be good for her, she will probably tell you that she isn't hungry anymore. Teach her that listening to her body is a good thing. Most adults have forgotten how to do that. Teach her to eat healthy and listen to her body. This will go a long way towards a healthy lifestyle her entire life!

Try to stop focusing on the amount of food she eats. If she says she's hungry, accept that. Don't argue with her or try to talk her out of it or make a mental note that she is probably eating too much. Just give her food. As long as the food you are giving her is healthy, it's fine.

Remember, she's a growing girl. At that age it is still perfectly normal for them to be starving one day and just eat and eat and eat and then the next day eat an apple and say they are full (and really mean it). That's how growing kids are. Their bodies grow in spurts. When they are growing, they are naturally more hungry. When they are not currently growing, they don't need as much.

Also, don't worry about what size she is. My boys where the same clothes and have for a few years. The only real difference is that my younger son's butt is bigger than my older son's, so he fills out the pants better! Size is just a number (a guideline). Lots of kids where sizes that are not their age. Buy her clothes that fit and stop trying to squeeze her into clothes that are too small for her.

But definitely speak with your doctor about his concerns. You want to be healthy, but you don't want to be afraid to give your daughter a mango.

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answers from Dallas on

I agree with Patricia. What were you thinking to fat shame a 6 yr old.

What's done is done but you've planted the seed for potential food issues the rest of her life based on your interpretation and your issues with food.

You should be setting a good example, not starving her or making her be on a diet.

It might help to seek some counseling so you can overcome your issues

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answers from Beaumont on

She will mirror your good choices so be sure and set a good example. The snacks you've mentioned aren't anything to worry about. In my own home, I limit chips and sweets but I don't get psycho about it because I TRY to exhibit "moderation". Genetics might come into play here or she's put on some weight before a growth spurt. My son did that and he's a skinny guy!
You know you messed up about the comment so please be careful in the future. You don't want her getting obsessed about her weight at 6!!

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answers from Kansas City on

I have to say, I agree with Patricia. You said something, you feel bad about it, now learn from it and work on not focussing on weight and tummies. It does sound like although you have the best intentions, and of course you do, that maybe your own fears and issues with weight are noticeable to her and you may be unintentionally affecting her.

It sounds like she's pretty active and that's good! Eating a whole mango is not the worst thing in the world either. It sounds like you offer healthy choices and she eats a fairly balanced diet according to what you've written here. Letting her have a snack is not giving in. It's feeding your child when she is hungry, and yes, sometimes you have to only offer fruits and veggies and other times she gets an ice cream. It's fine!!!

The only real advice I have here is to just focus on being active and making healthy choices with food. She seems to be involved in a lot, but make sure on days she doesn't have activities or weekends with free time, you all are getting out and going on walks, bike rides, etc. Don't focus on the size of her clothes either. My kids are not wearing the size clothes they "should" be in according to their age and neither of them are overweight. My husband hasn't always had the healthiest relationship with food but we try and explain to our kids what each type of food does for our body and why we need it. We don't say things like ice cream makes you fat...we say it give you calcium for your bones but because it has a lot of sugar in it we only eat it sometimes. We explain how other vegetables help give vitamin c or protein or whatever...and you know what...they still don't always eat them! And they still want ice cream...because they're kids. It's okay. Keep trying to offer balanced foods, keep her active, stop stressing, and make sure your feelings/attitudes towards food are healthy.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Chances are she will struggle with her weight simply because of her genetics. But now is a good time to teach healthy habits - not dieting, as you should never use that word with a young child.

Most research on weight loss says that a lack of sleep is a big deterrent to losing weight and that not getting enough sleep contributes to weight gain. My daughter is just a couple of months younger than yours and she sleeps from 8:00 - 6:30/7:00. I don't think your daughter is getting enough sleep and that is probably part of the problem.

If you can, skip the late snack and get dinner on the table around 5:30 or 6:00. I know that can be hard if you're working, but maybe try using a crock pot or make ahead meals that just need to be heated to save you time when you get home.

Does she get much opportunity to be active outside at school/daycare? If she does get a lot of time outside, mention to her teachers that you'd like her to be more active and see if they can engage her in fun physical activities (tag, red light green light, "what time is it mr. alligator" jump rope, etc).

More water is good too, so keep working on that. Most importantly, do not focus on getting her to lose weight and don't let her know that your goal is for her to lose weight. Just work together on living a healthy lifestyle - eating well and playing (exercising) outside. Look into signing her up for a sport like soccer or basketball where she'll do a lot of running. My daughter also does dance, gymnastics and swimming but none have nearly as much movement as soccer.

Don't let her develop negative thoughts or mental issues about her weight at such a young age or she'll have a bigger struggle as she grows. I know you feel bad about what you said to her, but I don't think you should bring it up again, as it will just continue to remind her of the issue. You apologized and can leave it at that unless she brings it up.

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answers from Honolulu on

I think one of the best suggestions regarding healthier eating is: look at the number of ingredients in a product. Yogurt, for example. Some of those kids' yogurts have so many ingredients, and include food colors, sugars (multiple), and thickeners. A better choice is an organic, unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt with a tiny bit of raw local honey drizzled on it, or fresh berries sprinkled over it. Make sure that the cheese is not those squares in the plastic, but a small slice of real cheese on something like a simple cracker with very few ingredients and no sugars. Sour cream? Look at the popular name brand full fat version (ingredient: milk) vs the low fat stuff (about 20 ingredients). Just buy the full fat and use a very small amount. Don't use margarine, butter-ish spreads, or gimmicks. Use real butter and use a very tiny amount. Make your own ranch dressing mix (no sugars - there are lots of recipes online and I have one if you need it), and stir it into plain Greek yogurt for a great dip for raw vegetables. No packages, packets, bottled dressings, boxed meal kits. Simple foods, simple ingredients.

A wonderful "ice cream" idea is to slice up a few bananas. Freeze the slices on a cookie sheet individually, and then toss the frozen slices into a freezer zip top bag. When that ice cream craving hits, throw a few frozen slices into a blender or food processor, blend until smooth (just a few seconds) and serve immediately. It tastes like banana ice cream but it's nothing more than frozen bananas!

I'd remove the skim milk. It's not really doing anything. All those almond and soy milks in the market either have added thickeners, gums, sugars or flavors. Either learn to make your own (really easy), or find a better "milk". My dd loves milk but there's too much sugar and carrageenan and junk, and dairy makes her stomach ache. We found Flax Milk by and it's delicious. I use it in cooking, and she puts it on cereal, and drinks it.

For drinks, try sparkling plain unflavored water with lemon in it, or a few berries. It's more interesting than water sometimes.

Learn all the different words for sugar, don't use anything labelled "sugar-free", don't be fooled by Splenda or Agave nectar or Stevia (very highly processed foods, not natural sweeteners). Just use raw local honey and pure maple syrup, in extreme moderation.

As for the comment, you've apologized. We've all said something we regret. Now, get on board with her and tell her that it's not about looks, it's about health, and your heart's desire for her is that she is healthy and happy. Get her involved in cooking with you, and try new fruits and simple pure foods. Try ones that are more difficult to eat, like oranges that you have to peel, or cherries that you have to pit. Try different salad foods, different vegetables.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Have you talked to your pediatrician? Kids can and do sometimes have endocrine issues that lead to sudden weight gain. She needs a full checkup.

ETA: If she's been eating pretty healthy, and still gained a lot of weight, I think you need a second opinion. A friend had a child who gained significant weight despite a very healthy diet. She took her concerns to her ped, who referred her to a pediatric endocrinologist, who did blood tests and determined that her hormone levels are off (not her sex hormones which control puberty, but others like the hormones controlled by her thyroid, etc). By all means, eating healthy is a great goal for the entire family. But if it doesn't help, ask to talk to a specialist.



answers from Oklahoma City on

If she's only in a child size 7 she's not that big. Really....

I had a little friend that at age 5 was in an adult small, that's big. Most kids age 5 are in 6 and 7 clothes.

I think that kids need to eat a well balanced diet. That means a little of this and a little of that. Some of all food groups. It truly sounds like you are doing what is good for her.

I'm not trying to discount what you're saying but some kids are bigger than other kids until they hit their teen years and then they grow into their weight.

I have another little friend that is the same age as my girl, who wears normal size clothes for her age, and her little friend just had to get a Plus Size top for their dance number and she's 12. No breasts to speak of either. If you put her body behind a wall then took away the middle where only her stomach showed everyone would guess she is 5-7 months pregnant. She just giggles and laughs when someone says something about being so fat. She's not roly poly, she is solid hard body muscle. Her sister was the same when she was this age. She is about 5'10 now and probably a 14-16.

Some kids are bigger than others. Very few are the size and age the same. My girl is 12 and she wears girls 14/16 pants etc if they have stretch. She fits in adult clothes though.

Around age 8-9 little girls are about the same size as an adult X-sm. Those adult clothes might have bigger arm holes, deeper V cut fronts, thigh high legs on swimsuits and stuff but most of their ladies clothes will fit them fine.

I don't really think she's so overweight and huge according to the size clothes she is wearing. Is she thin and where you want her? No. Is she obese and at risk? Maybe. I do think you're doing okay though.

She needs a good snack when she comes home. You do need to see what she's eating after school. We gave our school kids a higher protein snack and juice. A serving of juice is only 4 ounces though. A single juice bag or box are fine for a snack time drink if they're 100% juice.

She is exercising. She is eating healthier foods that my family. She is not eating sweets and candy and cake and stuff, my family ate that today and they're thin, except for me. Some kids are big no matter if you feed them celery all day and some are thin no matter if they eat ice cream and brownies 3 meals per day.

If she is exercising and eating right and still big then it's not what is going IN HER BODY, it is something going on IN her body to begin with. The doc needs to run tests on her body to see if it's using what is going in correctly.

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