Weight issues in kids

“Mom, I’ve gained weight,” the Taz told me with a forlorn look on his face after weighing himself on the upstairs scale.

It’s true. Over the past year the Taz has packed on a bit of baby pudge on his once trim body. It probably has to do with the way he helps himself to thirds for every meal. It may have something to do with the obsessive snacking he does in between meals. Maybe it’s his need to sneak some money outside whenever he hears the jangle of the ice cream man riding by on his bike. It’s all of those things, but it’s also the normal weight shift that kids go through around the age of 9 when their bodies slow down for a second in growing before shooting up like a weed. His sister went through the same battle at his age, and only lost the weight this last year when she went through a growth spurt. But she had also helped along the process when she became aware of her own body for the first time, and decided that eating more healthy foods and fewer proportions was a better answer than constant snacking.

The Taz had finally noticed his body, and now wanted to make a change.

Weight issues in kids are a very slippery slope. You want your child to be fit, trim, and healthy. But you don’t want them so obsessed with their body that they develop self esteem issues or an unhealthy relationship with food that goes from love to hate. Somehow, as parents, we must help our kids to be healthy, but not give them impulses to starve themselves (which later turns to more bingeing, which then turns into more weight gain) to “fit in”.

“Am I fat?” the Taz asked me. I wasn’t sure what to say in that moment. I had seen kids that had packed on an enormous amount of weight, and the Taz didn’t resemble these kids at all. But he had definitely changed in the past year where his stomach didn’t quite fit into the pants that fit his length. DQ stepped in before I could even say anything.

“You’re not fat. In fact, I was larger than you at your age. You’ll lose the weight just like me once you get taller, you’ll see.” Sometimes I love my daughter more than words can describe.

“You will lose it naturally,” I continued. “But the thing is, DQ changed her body not just by growing, but by changing the way she eats. She started eating healthier. Would you like to do the same?” I asked him. He nodded his head. Together we talked about a game plan for the next several months. I told him that I wouldn’t make him eat anything he didn’t like, and he wouldn’t have to give up many of his favorite foods. But he would not be eating seconds at any meal. He would also have to give up snacking in between meals. We decided on a couple of good breakfasts I could prepare for him every day so that he’d avoid cereal for awhile (no nutritional value, and definitely not filling). I promised to make him oatmeal or eggs and toast every day. I also made sure to stock up on turkey for his sandwiches so that he didn’t have to eat peanut butter and jelly (you’d be shocked at how many empty calories exists in this sandwich!).

“Does that mean I’ll never be able to eat dessert?” he asked, a worried look on his face.

“Of course you can have dessert, but it’s going to be more of a once in a while treat rather than an every day occurrence. And dessert can be a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie a lot of times.”

“What if one of the parents brings cupcakes to the baseball game?” he asked.

“Then you can eat it,” I told him. “That’s a once in a while treat.”

“And what about fast food?” he asked me. “A lot of times when I go to my dad’s, that’s what we have for dinner.” I gave him a list of things he could eat off the menu without going overboard, like two soft tacos or one bean burrito or one hamburger.

When my parents heard about the Taz’s new healthy eating plan, they wanted to get in on helping him out as well. They recently joined Weight Watchers, and my mom had a whole box of fun recipes that hardly seemed like diet foods. She gave me a recipe for a Ricotta Smoothie, a filling breakfast that both the kids agreed was delicious (recipe at end). And I talked to the Taz’s dad who also agreed that he would be making a conscious effort to make more dinners and to help the Taz with portion control.

After a busy weekend of baseball and playing at his dad’s house, the Taz came back to me all smiles.

“Look Mom! I think I’m getting trimmer!” and he lifted his shirt to show his belly to me. It had only been a couple days, but it did look like he had slimmed up a tiny bit.

“Great job, Taz!” I told him. “Just you wait, you’re going to see a difference in no time if you keep up eating healthy.”

Recipe and meal plan of attack:

RICOTTA SMOOTHIE RECIPE (123 total calories)

½ cup Orange Juice (55 calories)
¼ cup Skim Milk (23 calories)
½ tsp Vanilla
¼ cup Non-fat Ricotta Cheese (45 calories)
1 packet sweetener

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until mixed.

Fruit can be added (though that changes the calorie count), like a banana, strawberries, or a mango, etc. I also fix him one egg and a piece of toast to go with it so that he gets a nice full breakfast to get him through the first part of the day. For lunch he gets one sandwich, a Roaring Waters Capri-Sun, a piece of fruit, and a snack (like crackers with peanut butter or cheese). After school he gets a snack like a banana or a quesadilla. And dinner is a normal sized plate of food that consists of a protein, a grain, and a vegetable with a glass of milk. No seconds allowed.

Week one has been successful. I’m very proud of my boy!

Is your child struggling with weight? What about body image issues? How have you encouraged healthy eating and exercise for weight loss without hurting their self esteem? And if you are a naturally active and slim family, what kinds of things does your family do to keep healthy?


3 thoughts on “Weight issues in kids

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  1. Way to go Taz! Keep it up. The girls are gonna be after you like crazy after you lose that baby pudge

  2. It can be a struggle to eat healthy when we are faced with such busy schedules, fast food temptations, the cost of higher quality foods such as organic products and the peer pressure from those who pack lunches with white bread and ding dongs. The first step I took toward providing my child with healthy alternatives was purchasing a bento style lunch kit. This forced me to provide food in minimized portions. I started slicing up tomatoes and cucumber in one container, fruit in another, etc. He loves the variety. I fill the water bottle with water and ice – no juice! If I do treat him to a dessert of some kind, it is a healthier version of a cookie or something like banana bread.

    Recently, I have begun making protein shakes in the morning to go with wheat toast and or eggs. I have added vanilla flavored whey protein, frozen fruit, small bunch wheat grass, soy milk, flax seed meal and sometimes a juice purchased at Trader Joes that has vegetables in it. I always add one or two bananas for the sweetness. My whole family loves these shakes! I am working up the nerve to start testing out fresh vegetables mixed with the fruit next. Wish me luck! It sounds time consuming but really, it is fast and easy.
    One last tip for the family: eat dinner earlier, avoid serving pasta and bread too often and go for a family walk after dinner

  3. I love bento style lunchboxes! They are so cute, and it’s true, they allow for smaller servings. With kids, if you give them smaller portions, they generally don’t notice that they are eating less.

    As for the shakes, try carrots. They are naturally sweet and will actually enhance the taste of the shake. I agree that it has been a struggle to eat healthy while also living in the reality of compressed time and budgets. I’m greatful for stores like Trader Joe’s which still seems economically smart (if you plan it right) and generally healthy. And the portions are smaller.

    Thank you for your tips, those are good ones to adopt!

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