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Overweight 12 year Old Daughter

(30 Posts)
KAJL Tue 06-Sep-11 09:06:44

Hi, my daughter is 12 1/2 years old. She is overweight, not sure what she weighs as I don't want make an issue of it, however she is becoming evermore aware of it and has started calling herself fat. She is carrying this weight around her midriff and has a protruding tummy and fatty ?folds? on her back. She has a gorgeous pair of legs and her upper body is ?sturdy? but not big.

She is in a swimming club and they train them hard for 3 hours per week and she also does the normal 2 PE sessions at school per week, so she certainly is no couch potato! However she loves her food and eats like a horse! I cook properly every evening and she will eat fruit and veg with no problem. All I can think of to do is make sure that there are few biscuits and fatty foods in the house and only cook enough for one sitting with no leftovers for second helpings. She has taken a tuna wrap, 2 apples and some fresh raspberries to school for lunch today.

Yesterday she asked to join weightwatchers!! I said 'absolutely not' and that she just need to keep up with her sport and continue to eat healthily.

I have a friend who?s daughter started worrying about her weight around this age and she is now 18 and anorexic. Obviously this is a terrifying prospect.

She hasn?t started her period yet and I wonder if that might help rid her of this, what I hope is just, ?puppy fat??

Any advice would greatly appreciated along with anyone who has gone/is going through a similar thing.

Thanks so much!

oldmum42 Tue 06-Sep-11 10:48:49

It sounds like a healthy diet at home (portion sizes are ok?), could she be eating sweets etc when at school/swimming, without you being aware of it?

She is active, the swimming will be great for her.

Could I ask you, very gently, have you considered pregnancy as a cause of her weight gain? I know you say her periods have not started, but it's not impossible...... or has the weight gain been a longer term thing?

The bodyshape you mention is slightly concerning, this is "apple shaped" and is associated with more health risks than "pear shape" (big bum, smaller waist), so I'm wondering if she should see her GP for some professional advice - there may be tests they would want to run, and maybe, if she is at higher risk of weight related problems, they may suggest a slimming club is worth going to, even though she is young (I think they only take children on a doctors suggestion anyway).

I understand why you are worried about anorexia, but that's about a lot more than weight, the weight becomes the focus, but there are deeper issues at the roots of it.

emmyloo2 Tue 06-Sep-11 14:29:46

That makes me sad that your daughter is already calling herself fat and she is only 12 years old. How awful for her to be aware of her body. It really is hard for girls these days isn't it?

I think it sounds like everything you are doing is right. Unprocessed, healthy, low fat foods at home and limiting junk food, without making a big deal about it. Swimming is good as well. Could you incorporate exercise into family events such as walks and bike rides?

I think if her diet is good and she is getting regular exercise, then her body shape should just settle where it is naturally meant to be. I wouldn't suggest any form of diet club etc because it could be the start of a long battle with diets and weight. And the concern about anorexia is well founded. Although it is about the weight I think it can start from unhappiness with one's body shape and 12 years, while young, is not too young for anorexia to start.

I think above everything else, you should instill in her a sense of self-worth which is based on something other than her body shape.

Good luck

emmyloo2 Tue 06-Sep-11 14:30:30

Sorry meant to say "although anorexia is NOT about the weight..."

snailoon Tue 06-Sep-11 14:41:29

A lot of kids carry a bit of extra fat before they have their growth spurt. They also eat excessively when they are about to grow.
I think it is great she is able to talk to you about this; many children would be too insecure or embarrassed. I think if she is concerned, you should give her some suggestions, as well as lots of reassurance. Do you have enough lo-cal snacks around (veg sticks, popcorn, melon); what about herbal teas, grain coffees, soda water with lemon, etc.?

KAJL Tue 06-Sep-11 14:46:12

Oh Lord! She is definitely not pregnant! Gosh, that made me shudder, although I know it does happen! She’s been slightly overweight for a while now, certainly longer than 9 months!

I have thought about the doctor but I’m so paranoid about making an issue of it. The 'apple shape’ does worry me a little and I had read that carrying midriff weight is the worst place health wise.

I’ve caught her swiping the odd biscuit but no more than any other child I wouldn't think, and I haven't found stashes of empty wrappers anywhere. Occasionally she’ll go into town with her friends and eat sweets but, again, pretty normal behaviour. I think the problem is the amount she’ll have at meal times. She always goes back for seconds so I’ll have to make an effort to just cook ‘enough’.

Anyway all this has prompted me to call my doctor and we’re having a telephone consultation tomorrow to have a chat about it.

KAJL Tue 06-Sep-11 14:58:20

Snailoon and Emmaloo2 - Thanks, I am hoping its a growing issue. I’m always telling her she’s gorgeous and what a lovely pair of legs she has etc. I’ve told her that it’s an 'age thing’ but it’s hard for her, as all her close friends are slim. She’s very bright and funny and I don't think the weight thing is something that consumes her every thoughts thank goodness but, as I said, she comments on it regularly and looks upset and sad when we do talk about it.

onlinefriend Tue 06-Sep-11 15:02:41

It sounds like you are doing a really good job giving her a healthy diet and lots of exercise in her life and especially to be trying to address this now as it would be easier to ignore it. Well done!

I really feel for her as I was a thin child and then started putting weight on at ten when i went to secondary school. It got worse during puberty as i gradually put on more weight and went from a bit chubby to fat. (It might be that she loses weight as she grows in height but everyone waited for this with me and i just got fatter and taller so don't wait to act)

There is lots of sharp inhilations from people at the idea of a cutting back a child's food - won't it mess up their eating, give them an eating disorder etc but all i can tell you from my experience is that not much in this world will mess you up quite as much as being a fat teenager.

Other girls are shopping, going out with boys etc and you can't fit into those nice clothes, you're the one all the boys like as a plantonic friend to talk about the other girls (but would never go out with) etc. it gave me a really poor sense of self image that seeped into every area of my life and i really wish someone had been brave enough to tackle it the way you are.

You are right to avoid weight loss clubs etc but why not suggest a compromise with her by having a chat about the fact that she is eating too much overall and suggesting the two of you measure her portions at home together? I know it is not ideal for a child to have to think about stuff like this but she will only get more self consious otherwise.

I'm impressed by your bravery & good luck talking to the GP

DrGoogle Tue 06-Sep-11 15:03:02

Snailoon has a good point about growth spurts and changes in eating, however, if she is unhappy you don't want her deciding to make up a diet of her own.
What about a website like MyFitnessPal, it's free and you could adapt the settings on it to suit her age. She could log in the excersise she is doing and it will show her the correct number of calories/fat protein etc that she needs each day. The focus need not be on loosing weight, just getting the correct nutrition, it even gives you a warning if you have not eaten enough calories. It sounds like you are already doing all the right things, but this may help to confirm what you have already told her.

KAJL Tue 06-Sep-11 15:44:54

Thanks so much everyone! What a lovely lot you are!!

Onlinefriend - your experience is, to a point, already what she is going through clothes wise and socially. She is in 14/15 year old clothes; we bought her a school skirt the other day, on line, and it was for age 15 and was too small. She was gutted (although a pair of shorts for the same age group were too big, so I think sizes differ greatly). All her friends on the beach were wearing bikinis this year and she insisted on one. I couldn't tell her she wouldn’t suit it and so bought one which she wore. To be honest, it looked pretty awful and although she wore it I could tell she was aware of it.

DrGoogle - I’ll def have a look at My FitnessPal, thank you.

Thanks all for your reassurance, I’ll post once I’ve had a chat with the doctor and let you know what was said.

Thanks again.

brettgirl2 Tue 06-Sep-11 15:57:26

I would stop having crisps, biscuits and sweets in the house at all - not a complete ban but special occasions only. I was a bit plump in my teens and if my parents had done this (I did it myself when I moved out and lost 2 stone) it would have helped a lot. Also watch what she is drinking drinks with sugar including fruit juice are packed with calories which dont even fill you up.

Tryharder Tue 06-Sep-11 20:13:26

Agree with onlinefriend. I was an overweight teenager and it was shite. Horrible. I wish my mum had had the gumption and understanding to put me on a diet and make me do some regular exercise. I don't think you are doing her any favours by pussyfooting around the issue.

I think a 12 year old is old enough to understand the issues around diet/healthy eating and be persuaded to cut out all the crap and eat healthy size portions. If you nip this in the bud now you will be doing her a great favour.

KAJL Tue 06-Sep-11 20:59:19

Tryharder - With respect, I think it’s difficult, with hindsight, to predict how you would have reacted if your mum had done something about it when you were younger.

My daughter, whilst happy and bright, isn’t exactly brimming with confidence and so I really don’t want exacerbate this by bluntly telling her she’s fat and needs to lose some weight! I don't think I’m pussyfooting around, as I’ve said, she is well aware that she’s overweight and we’ve discussed it. I’m just trying to tackle it sensitively.

I don't want her to get it into her head to eat an apple a day to lose a load of weight quickly. She’s eating a varied, healthy diet (she just eats lots of it, which I’m tackling!) and as I’ve said earlier she’s doing plenty of exercise.

emmyloo2 Wed 07-Sep-11 07:18:25

KAJL - I agree with your last post. I wouldn't be so blunt at Tryharder is suggesting. I think it could be very damaging to her self confidence. I think what you are doing is exactly right.

Bonsoir Wed 07-Sep-11 07:33:42

Does she drink calorific drinks (juice, milk, sodas)? Just cutting out the calories from drinks and only drinking water can make a massive difference to calorie intake.

maxcliffordslovechild Wed 07-Sep-11 07:44:49

If she really is insisting on a diet club I know that slimming world is available for 11 - 16 yr olds free, and at that age it's not focused on diet it's more about education and support and exercise also it may give her ideas about making healthy choices. I think its called free 2 go. To be honest though she will probably grow into her weight and at her age and it's more about maintaining while she grows. I have an overweight 9 yr old btw who attends class with me ( no one to watch her) and she has been making better choices lately.

bestponyinshow Wed 07-Sep-11 08:05:02

Interesting about Slimming World. I hope their approach is OK, sounds like it must be?

Can children do MyFitnessPal? I know WeightLossResources wouldn't allow children to log on.

TheProvincialLady Wed 07-Sep-11 08:26:28

It's great that she does the 3 hours a week of swimming and the school PE - but does she walk to school and get a reasonable amount of exercise in her daily life? That would make a big difference.

An0therName Wed 07-Sep-11 08:31:18

ProvinicialLady that was what I was going to ask - does she ride her bike places, walk places etc
and I would get a bit of perspective on the weight - its worth getting her BMI?

I think more day to day ativity and smaller portions is going to be the way forward
also I suspect there will girls at school on diets so she may be getting ideas from them

KAJL Wed 07-Sep-11 10:59:39

Thank you Emmyloo2, it’s so hard being a teen, especially these days. My dd came home the other day saying some friends were wearing foundation to school and could she have some to hide her freckles! 'Er no’, was my reply!

Bonsoir - nope, she mainly drinks water and sometimes will have ribena squash with dinner. They’re allowed a coke if we eat out, but that’s it.

One thing thats not great is that she’s never hungry for breakfast, we’ve had real battles over this and she went through a stage where she was having nothing (I was exactly the same when I was her age). Just recently though she stayed at a friends and said she had eaten cocopops and really liked them. Reluctantly I have bought some and she will now eat a very small bowl without milk. Not great I know but my rationale is that something in her stomach is better than nothing!

Maxcliffordslovechild (love the name!) - She hasn't mentioned slimming world again but I was quite firm that it wasn't happening. I will look at the 11-16 year old section though. Speaking to the doctor this morning so I’ll see what she says.

KAJL Wed 07-Sep-11 11:03:50

She gets a fair amount of other exercise as well as the swimming. We have 2 young dogs and so we go on good walks at the weekend. Unfortunately, she can’t walk to school as its 6 miles away.

Cheers everyone, its been great to share this!

Davsmum Wed 07-Sep-11 13:39:09

Sounds to me like you are doing well with your daughter.
I would make sure she knew how proud I was of her for being active and pursuing sports. Also, just talk to her about healthy foods and discuss with her why weight watchers is not necessary as she is already doing the right thing with exercise - she just needs to be sensible about eating snacks that are sugary or fatty. Tell her if she concentrates on 'healthy' then the rest will take care of itself !
12 is an awkward age - like a transitional period of her life. I think lots of girls can get a bit chubby at that age.

encyclogirl Wed 07-Sep-11 13:46:29

Kajl, dunno if someone already suggested this, but why don't you sign up online yourself and get some of the healthy recipes. Then just prepare them for her. I think hidden calories might be your problem here.

You've got all other bases covered, with exercise and cooking your own food.

The online WW site is excellent and there's even an app I believe.

Madlizzy Wed 07-Sep-11 13:56:24

Do look at portion sizes. Sometimes, it's easy to over load the plate for kids this age, as they seem to have hollow legs. Smaller plates can make it appear that there's more there than there is.

mymumdom Wed 07-Sep-11 13:57:56

I was a fat child and my mother put me on diet. The rest of the family were allowed sweets, biscuits, cake etc but not me. I was obsessed with all the food I wasn't allowed. I used to get up in the middle of the night and nick all 'their' food. She also used to make me come to aerobics with her sad
Your daughter sounds wonderfully unaware of societies expectations of those of us who are not the 'right' size or shape. If I was you I'd wait until she next calls herself fat, then point out that people come in all shapes and sizes and reassure her that you will love her no matter what her body size is.
Then talk to her about eating when you aren't really hungry and how it will cause fat to be laid down. She might be able to think of some times she eats for other reasons than hunger? Can she think of something else to do instead?Maybe you could talk to her about a hunger scale. It may be that her body is preparing for growth, so I wouldn't get too stressed her weight/ size yet. I would concentrate on the healthy diet/ plenty of exercise thing. If you do that you know at least she's healthy. I'd rather have an overweight child who eats healthily and does plenty of exercise than a whippet thin one who eats junk and can't be moved off the sofa.
A friend of mine has the same concerns about her 9 year old and was told at this stage they prefer kids not to lose weight, but instead to maintain as they grow taller.

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