What Are Your Thoughts About Giving a 13 Year Old an Incentive to Lose 30 Lbs?

Updated on July 11, 2019
J.F. asks from Sparks Glencoe, MD
23 answers

My daughter is 13, insulin resistant and about 30 lbs overweight. We are considered giving her a dog that she wants if she loses the weight. Would love to know your thoughts on this.

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answers from Boston on

If the extra activity would benefit her, I think having a family dog that she walks would be great. I don't think it's best to ever reward weight gain or loss.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I remember being that age and my grandmother told me that if I lost the weight she would buy me a whole new wardrobe.
Never lost the weight, but felt like a big fat slob that my grandmother didn't love.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

You help her by only having healthy choices of food around the house.
You also help her by limiting screen time (the more time spent sitting and watching anything is time spent not moving) and by getting the whole family involved in doing physical things - hiking, riding bikes, wall climbing, swimming, playing volley ball, etc.

For most people - a dog will not help them lose weight.
You have to be committed to walking the dog - rain or shine - every day - no excuses - and gradually lengthen the walk.
Most 13 yr olds won't do this - you'll end up doing everything for the dog - and there's nothing wrong with that but just go into it knowing that it's going to be YOUR dog.
Your 13 yr old will be leaving for college in 5 years - you will still be doing everything for the dog - dorms don't allow pets.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Since a dog is a 12 to 15 year commitment and a living creature no I would NOT use that as an incentive. Absolutely NOT fair to the dog. Besides in five years she will be going to college or work, then what?
Please have your daughter work with a registered dietician and make sure the whole family is eating the same way. If she is on a "special" diet it's never going to work.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

No.. only because I think tying rewards to weight loss is tricky. It might set her up for a lifetime of weight issues. Also, I think getting a pet should be because it's the 'right' thing/fit for your family, not really a reward - based on our personal experience.

Instead, I would encourage a more active lifestyle that is do-able, which is a bit each day. I would change diet over time, and just make it reasonable.

I have a relative who works with kids with diabetes. She deals with this all the time and has for many years.

She makes small do-able changes with kids and teens - one goal a week/two weeks. Sometimes it's as small as a short walk (even around the block if they are totally sedentary) and then they up it the next week. They don't keep food logs - instead, they just talk about what they could do 'better' the next week, and what they ate that made them feel 'bad'. How they can make better choices so that their bodies can feel better.

That's kind of the gist of it. Over time, the kids do lose weight. It's not quick, and it shouldn't be. If you offer a reward like a puppy, then that's a far away goal in a way. 30 pounds is a lot too. I wouldn't focus on pounds - more on feeling better.

Does she have a clinical dietician who is guiding her that works with pediatrics? if not, that's what I would recommend :)

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Abilene on

Your daughter has insulin resistance. She's not going to lose weight easily. As others have stated, working with a nutritionist and exercise is going to help her. What are HER feelings on this? The last thing you want to do is make her feel that she doesn't measure up especially when part of this is a medical issue, not simply a cut out the junk food issue.

My son carries extra weight. At a pediatrician visit he was badgered because the doctor just knew he was a couch potato. Told him to quit eating junk food and drinking soda and start exercising. Guess what, he doesn't eat a lot of junk, never has touched soda (only drinks water and has one glass of milk at breakfast). He exercises. The assumptions people make when they see someone is overweight infuriates me. It is the one issue where people feel they can be judgmental and hurtful in their assessment.

I have battled weight my entire life. My mom never tried to make me diet. She encouraged me. When I told her I didn't want her to buy my favorite cookie because I was going to try to lose weight she supported me. She never looked down on me or got frustrated with me where my weight is concerned. When I tried Shaklee, Weight Watchers, etc. etc., she always cheered me on.

My mom and sister don't way 105 lbs. She is still my biggest cheerleader when I'm more careful about what I'm doing (Keto has helped move the scale for me). But she never says anything or acts disappointed when I am not doing as well. Tread very carefully here. You can very easily make her feel oh well, she thinks I'm fat anyway, why care.

See how she leads. There's nothing wrong with saying to her, "I love you sweetheart and I am genuinely concerned about your health long term. Because you are insulin resistant, I would like to work with a nutritionist since I've never encountered this issue before. They know more how to help and I'm sure with a few cooking adjustments, I'll be able to help you by providing healthier meals. I know it's going to be important for you long term to know how to deal with this medical condition and I want you to be healthy and enjoy your life. What do you think?" She may enjoy taking a cooking class with you and learning more about nutrition and seeing how different foods effect her.

Don't say if you lose 30 pounds, I'll do xyz. Celebrate every one pound she loses, as it is really a victory. Set a goal of running/walking a 5k together. Train together. Don't make her feel like her weight defines who she is. I am the same person with the same traits no matter if I weigh 115 pounds or 185 pounds and I deserve to be treated with the same love and respect no matter what the scale says!

Sorry - probably said too much, but this is a hot button for me.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Sounds like you're mixing two issues, and it's not going to work well for either one.

First of all, EVERY kid says they want a dog and they'll walk it, brush it, feed it, train it, clean up when it throws up, and everything else. That lasts somewhere between 2 days and 1 week. Walking a dog provides some exercise, but not as much as you might think. Sitting on the couch petting a dog keeps a kid (or an adult) from being active too.

Have you had a dog before? Do you know that it's a huge expense, and a 10-15 year commitment? What's your plan for vacations, day-long activities, and for when your daughter leaves the house at 18? You aren't planning to re-home it, are you? That's traumatic and inhumane. I have a twice-abandoned dog, and I know the issues involved.

Moreover, your daughter has a medical problem - insulin resistance. She needs to learn to manage it, and that starts now. She'll be on her own in a few years. Moreover, she has hormonal issues going on - all kids this age do. So she needs to sit down with her doctor, and maybe everyone needs to work with a nutritionist to improve eating in the home. You still control the grocery money, so what's in the house is your decision. With farmers markets and fresh produce abundant right now, it's a good time to learn about fun and exciting things to make with all of that, and to get everyone off whatever processed and convenience foods you're accustomed to eating. She could benefit from a gym membership or a swimming program or helping at a camp as a Counselor-in-Training where she's active all day long. She could even show her dedication to dog care by actively working in the neighborhood to walk, feed and maybe bathe other people's dogs. If she doesn't have the energy for that, then there's no dog for your family.

I'd also look into what's available in the schools so you can be ready for September. One of our lead athletic department teachers works with kids to design a fitness program (NOT a weight loss program!!!) with weights and treadmill work. Weight work builds muscle, which burns fat and which is important for women to ward off osteoporosis. Walking in an air conditioned space while listening to music or even watching TV is a beneficial way to get moving while avoiding oppressive summer heat. Watching a one-hour TV show on a treadmill is far better than watching it at home, right? Bottom line, she has to be interested and she has to be encouraged, not just forced.

But I think tying the 2 things together (a huge weight loss, not just gradual fitness) and a dog (not a prize/reward, but a family member) is a slippery slope. Bad for the kid, bad for the dog. And making such a far-off goal is unreasonable - she'll give up. She can't safely lose 30 pounds in a short period of time, and if she gets discouraged and says, "Fine, I won't get a dog," then where will you be on the health and wellness front? Nowhere different than you are right now.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on


She has a health issue and you should not relate that with a reward.

She needs care from professionals so she does not get in a self destructive cycle with her self esteem because of her weight and issues.

This weight problem is an issue or HER and SHE needs to control her motivation on losing weight.

Your job is to have a healthy home, activities, foods, etc. You model the behavior you want. Get active, even if it is an early morning walk or after dinner walk.

Getting a new pet is a huge responsibility and commitment and NOT FAIR to an animal to be brought into a home in this manner when the care could likely slack off when the newness of a pet has worn off and it is realized how much work is involved with a pet.

Her incentive should be that she can hopefully get insulin under control and live a long healthy life.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


Welcome to mamapedia!

Sorry - you're going about this all wrong. YOU must lead my example. If your daughter has blood sugar issues? You need to ensure she has healthy choices in the house to eat.

YOU need to lead by example and get out with her and exercise WITH HER.

No. You don't bribe her with a dog. NO.

You find a nutritionist and learn how to cook better and healthier for the family and find the foods that don't push her blood sugar up. Corn, Peas and some other veggies taste great but can make a diabetics blood sugar go through the roof!

Don't get rid of all the chocolate and snacks. Just make it in moderation. When you withhold the "treats"?? You cause the desire to be there and when she does get the chance? She will go overboard.

Get out and exercise with her.
Get her into sports and other activities.
Get a nutritionist so you can prepare (and she will learn how to prepare) healthy meals for the family.

Good luck

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

So your daughter has a medical condition that makes her weight a challenge and you want to bribe her to lose weight? How about having her sign up with a sport or activity instead?

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I personally would not do this...it is shaming her in a way. She is insulin resistant and this is not her fault!! I would get her a dog if she promises to walk it twice a day. But be prepared to take care of this dog yourself for the next 8 or so years after she goes to college. Do YOU want a dog and want to put time into the dog? I would buy healthy foods and stock the pantry with healthy snacks. No granola bars, no sugar drinks, no cookies, no yogurt with a ton of sugar, no pastries or white breads. The goal is to eventually enjoy a snack such as sliced green peppers and hummus - you have to train your taste buds. As a family go play tennis at the park after dinner, go on weekend bike rides to a destination, hike a 3-4 mile hike, play frisbee golf at a designated course, play basketball, play badminton, etc. Make being active a normal part of life. Also understand that being a bit overweight might just be her norm. Watch The Sugar Film with her. Instead of focusing on her weight focus on having a healthy lifestyle and her wanting to be healthy.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Just eat healthy thing and train regular.
And invite your daughty with you!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I say she needs to be into sports /activities. Getting her a treadmill or pool membership. Anything that will make it easier on her and to encourage her.
I am a strong believer that kids need to start sports early, about 4 or 5. But it’s never too late to start something.....especially that she is diabetic and overweight.

I would tell my kid to pick a reasonable present ( have an x value in mind ) and when she achieves her goal -she gets a present of her choice.

I am against getting a puppy/dog just because for 13 years you did not have the need for one. It’s a long commitment. Vets yearly, flea/tick and heart guard medication monthly, dog food and you add the puppy add ruined floors, chewed shoes etc..,plus walking the dog in bad weather, clean up after it, doggy daycare/sitters or boarding when you go on vacations..I know we have 3! ( one is aggressive so we can not go away anywhere decent )

I wish her lots of luck!!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Look she is 13 and she knows that she needs to lose weight. She is going to have to want to do this for herself and not a reward of some sort.

I have had several friends over the years who said everything their parents did to bribe them to lose weight made them feel terrible about themselves...new clothes, a trip, etc. They just wanted to be loved as they were...pretty enough as they were...smart enough as they were...not IF they lost 10, 20 or 30 pounds.

My advice would be to use the money you would spend on the dog $800-$1200 a year and find a good psychologist for YOU to go to and find out the best way to help your daughter develop good eating habits and HOW to discuss the weight issue without crushing her self esteem.

Good luck!!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I disagree with the idea of giving a pet (or a car, or toys, or electronics, or money, or anything else like that) for an incentive to lose weight.

The incentive has got to make sense. And reasonable incentives for losing weight are feeling better, being able to be more active, not having to go to the doctor as often, not developing diabetes (or other medical conditions), and knowing that one is taking care of one's body and health.

One of the worst things you can do, when a person has an unhealthy relationship with food, is to tie food to pleasures like getting a new pet, or buying a fancy new dress in several sizes lower. Food is fuel. Food is energy. It can be its own reward. The new dog would probably be awesome for a month or so, and then the fun would wear off, and too much food would be tantalizing, and you're right back where you started, except with a dog to take care of.

So talk to her about feeling better, being more active, and being healthy. Plan a bike ride, or a hike, or something that requires that the participants be in good shape physically.

And make sure that you're setting a good example. Meet with a nutritionist and become accountable to helping your entire family to have a good relationship with food.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Sounds good to me! But it's hard for the best of us to lose weight, so you are going to have to combine that incentive with providing proper food, exercise, etc., with the focus being on health. You will also have to be light-handed about it, because no one is going to lose weight with someone micromanaging and lecturing them about it all the time.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think this is a dangerous mix of two very different issues.

first off, being insulin resistant is tough for a teenager. she needs plenty of support, education about how to handle this physical condition, and the freedom to make her own supported, educated, thoughtful choices. including being wrong sometimes and learning from THAT.

giving her a dog as a reward does not meet any of those criteria.

she needs a kitchen stocked with helpful, ease to access snacks, to participate in family meal prep, encouragement in finding exercise that she enjoys, and a family focus on healthy eating.

you don't mention her actually saying that she wants a dog. does she? do you? because a dog is so much more than a reward for some lost pounds. what if she's only kind of interested? what if she loses the weight to get the dog and then gains it back? what if she says she wants a dog but then realizes the work involved isn't what she really wants? are you prepared to accept that dog as a family member and take on any responsibility that she walks away from? or will you dump the dog into a shelter as a failed experiment?

do not gamble with a living, feeling creature's heart and life.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Not only NO but HELL NO!!

Your daughter has health issues. This isn't a case of "oh my daughters overweight because she binge eats.

Your daughter needs help and support from you, not a mother who is vain and using bribery.

Here's something you should read


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answers from Miami on

While I see nothing wrong with an incentive, the idea of giving a pet, which is a HUGE responsibility, DOES bother me. How about taking her to the county fair, a cirque du soleil performance, or some other fun amusement park, instead, if she can drop the weight? Or some other "dream" experience she may have, like a small road trip to celebrate. I see nothing wrong with putting a light at the end of the tunnel as motivation for those needing to lose weight, I see people giving cash prizes for weight loss all the time and it helps keep people focused on the end result. The problem is, a live creature is being used as a bargaining tool. What happens if she puts on the weight? The animal goes? What if she gets bored with it? Who cares for it then? It's not fair to the animal to suffer the consequences.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Kalamazoo on

Are you prepared to take care of this dog? Vet expenses etc? What about in 5 years when daughter is 18 and pup is only 5? What if she moves out, college etc and can't take dog with her, take care of? Would you be willing to keep it and take care of it forever? Dogs are for LIFE.
If you answer yes to all of these questions, then MAYBE.
But NOT as an incentive to loose weight.
Perhaps.......and this is a stretch only if you answer YES to all above questions........
Ask your daughter if she is willing to take care of dog. Will she walk it? Will she play with it? Will she clean up poo outside (and inside messes) as needed (daily, weekly etc). Will she brush and bathe the dog? If she agrees and you believe she will, a dog could be a great PARTNER in her journey to better health overall. A dog could potentially help her get more exercise and get outside more.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Are you getting a larger dog that needs to be walked every day? That would help her lose weight.

Only do this is she loves the idea of getting exercise with a dog. If it’s a little dog, it won’t be nearly as helpful.


answers from Chicago on

I think a good incentive would be for you (and her father) to show an interest in her health.

Do you know how to shop healthy?
Do you know how to cook healthy?
Do you know how to weight train?
Do you know how to fit exercise into your daily schedule?

Honestly, most of us don’t.
The best incentive you can give her is to figure out how to do this now and model it for her.
This way she has time to learn how to incorporate it into her life as she gets older and life gets busier for her.

The reward is she will feel better about herself, feel connected to you, and feel someone cares about her.


answers from Boston on

When my husband found he had a high glucose reading after fasting for 12-hours, we started cooking differently. We did not cut out all his favorite junk food, but did limit them.

If you are cooking spaghetti, chop up veggies, even the one's she doesn't like (hubby didn't know they were there) til after he said how good it was. By the way make your own spaghetti sauce.

I make a egg frittata, doing the same as above, using chopped veggies, meat etc.

Blend up veggies and fruits with yogurt making a smoothie. There are plenty of recipes on the internet. Also check the internet for other things that help insulin resistance.

My husbands sugar is under control (no meds) and so is his weight.

Btw, when she compliments what you cooked and how good it taste, let her help you. She will learn she couldn't taste the 'unliked foods'. This way she is learning at an early age to stay at a healthy weight and control her insulin; something she can take into her college years and adult life.

Also ask your store to point you in the direction of sugar free cookies. Look for pretzels with low sugar content, if she likes those and Pringles.

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