Year 6 DS putting on a lot of weight - advice please(31 Posts)
DS has just turned 11, he's always had a good appetite and been tall and sturdy. Since being in year 6, walking to school on his own and being out playing with his friends more he has started to put on a lot of weight. No idea what he weighs but he's started to outgrow his plus sized trousers.
I've always tried not to make an issue of it but to quietly feed him healthy food, perhaps I've tried too hard and this has back fired as when he is faced with sweets or biscuits he goes wild.
I've discussed healthy eating with him, tried to set a good example, secretly counted his daily calories (for 6 weeks) - so I'm pretty confident it's not the food I'm giving him, he does a fair bit of exercise, 3 - 4 sessions a week (running, badminton). He's getting teased and named called at school; there have been a few bouts of tears at bedtime. I am worried about this continuing as he goes to secondary school.
My feeling is that the issues are:
Lunch times at school - they don't have a dedicated lunch supervisor anymore (1 person covers 3 classrooms), so I send him with a low calorie packet of crisps and he swaps it for chocolate biscuits. It has come to light that he also eats anyone else's lunch that they don't want.
When out with friends they go to the shop and buy sweets etc, which DS then eats as much as he can of. I find the wrappers in his coat pocket.
I don't give him money for the shops but I have caught him once or twice coming out of the sweet shop on his way home (he walks with friends but I walk home a little later from nearby) if he's picked up a 20p or a grandparent slipped him a pound coin.
I am wondering whether I should have a more frank chat with him, enlist him in a more determined effort to eat healthily and be sensible with crisps and sweets.
What would you do/how would you phrase it the discussion?
Its fairly normal IMO for year 5/6/7s to look a bit chubby for a shot time before a growth spurt evens everything out again. Are you sure it isn't just that?
Thank you for replying.
Historically i think that's been true. I've never weighed him but gone by school trousers. He'd always been fine in standard size very elastic waist trousers but at the start of year 5 I had to buy the plus size, then again at the start of year 6, but now he's outgrowing them so things are going in the wrong direction. His tummy is getting big, almost like a beer belly.
I really would love you to be right. A big bit of me wants to hold my nerve and not make any sort of issue out if it. I'm worried though, at what point do I need to take more action? I got the year 6 letter to say he was obese but things have got worse since then.
I would have a discussion with him (I have a 12yo and a 10yo DS). Its very difficult when he has his own money and is allowed out on his own. Mine are not allowed out into town on their own (its 15 miles away) and so I don't have that issue. I think the logical next step is to say that you know he's aware of it since he's been getting upset and so you will help him but he has to be honest with you about what he's eating outside of the home and he has to increase his exercise. Boys of that age eat a lot but if he's not exercising to offset it then he will gain weight. What exercise does he do?
He runs 2 to 3 times a week. Badminton once a week. Walks to and from school (1/2 a mile). Scoots when out with mates. Getting him out to run is a bit of a battle but he usually enjoys it when he's out (we're all runners but I'm very slow and DH is injured).
I've been sat here looking at dance classes (he's expressed an interest) and organising some trips to the pool with his friends.
He gets pocket money but I've stopped letting him take any to the shops. His mates all have money though.
Thanks for your reply. I do appreciate getting somes other views on what to do.
I did think of walking him to school again and not letting him out with his mates! It gets him off the xbox though and walking him to school would go down like a lead baloon!
What does he eat for his meals? He would have to buy and eat a lot of rubbish to put on weight of his meals are healthy and normal portion sizes. When he runs, how long does he run for? Does he alter pace or just jog at a steady pace? Running is not that great for weight loss unless you are doing at least some of your run at a high intensity. How long does he play badminton? If it's training how much of the session is standing around doing drills?
My point is it's easy to over estimate how much excercise he is actually getting and underestimate how much he is actually eating.
When I did the 6 weeks of secret calorie counting his meals were coming in at around 1800 caleries per day, some days more and some less. That's the food I give him anyway. I did adjust portion sizes, especially of things like cheese - it was a worthwhile exercise. He knew nothing about it, just for DH and me to consider. He will easily eat a lot, more than me. I'm also trying to get him to slow down and chew as he wolfs food down. I'm being such a nag and I do have this worry that it's making meals miserable and is counter-productive. I must do better at setting the right example (DH is great at this, naturally slim with no fod hang ups etc, I am not).
I absolutely take your point about over estimating the exercise, we have also fallen into the trap of "he's run today so he can have some cake" and that's not helpful. The running has declined because of DH being injured. DS trains at a track once a week, cross country club once a week and we usually manage a family run/walk at the weekend, we've been doing intervals because of DH's injury. We used to do park run together but DH can't make it round at the moment and I can't keep up with DS, although now he's 11 he can run on his own but it may be a struggle without DH running with him motivating him.
Should I tackle the extras? The sweets when out and about? Or make a concerted effort to up the exercise and hope for the best?
it sounds like he isn't getting enough exercise.
DS is year 6 and does:
school - indoor pe once a week, swimming twice a week, outdoor sports one whole afternoon per week
outside of school - fencing 2 hour session twice a week, swimming once a week, cricket twice a week
I wouldn’t limit his pocket money or going out with friends either. He needs to learn what is a reasonable amount to eat when he’s out with his friends. A Mars Bar or a regular bag of crisps is ok. A grab back or sharing prank of anything is too much and have you discussed energy drinks with him?
I don’t think he has enough exercise from what you’ve said either. At 11 my DS was doing 2 activities some days. Does he do any after school clubs? Would he be interested in Cricket, Rugby or Hockey? Is he doing Scouts? My DS often seems to eat at Scouts so it’s not necessarily good for weight loss but it does help to keep up his activity levels.
Have you seen this publication from the Caroline Walker Trust. We found the teenage one very helpful when assessing what our DS was eating and what he needed
Swimming is good if you can get him doing lengths and not just playing around.
I wouldn’t give him low calorie crisps either -they aren’t at all filling and just full of crap-maybe some homemade popcorn or some crackers?
I’d also keep an eye on the shop thing as t won’t be long before his mates are buying energy drinks and all sorts of crap which won’t help.
Lower his carbs at home-eggs for breakfast meat & veg meals for dinner etc.
I’m watching with interest as my dd in year 4 is developing a tummy. SHe is a bread addict and pretty lazy which isn’t a good combination!
We had a similar problem once dcs start travelling alone and stopping at the shops. I would focus on the food rather than the exercise. Exercise is essential for the heart and for his sense of well being but he won't be doing enough to burn off loads of sweets.
Some school dinners offer quite stodgy puddings and don't insist on a balanced meal e.g. kids can choose rice and chips. Is there a menu published on the school website where you could discuss with him at the start of each week what he might choose?
We relegated sweet treats to the weekend only. Kids don't need cake or even a pudding per se. It's a yoghurt or fruit after dinner.
It might seem draconian but you're trying to help him make sensible choices for life as well as to manage his weight right now. Good luck OP - it's really tough and we're still struggling with this now.
Thank you for the replies. He does do scouts, pe at school and plays football at lunchtimes as well as the running and badminton. I am feeling like we do need to increase the exercise and I'm thinking swimming with friends, Dance (which he's said he'd like to do) plus more running and country walks. As ever it's a matter of fitting everything in but the lighter evening should help.
I think I'm going to chat with him before he goes out with his friends at the weekend but try to keep it light, if there are snacks just have a little bit, because it's important to put healthy food in us etc. He is keen on fizzy drinks but he only has them very occasionally and he knows to go for a sugar free choice. Energy drinks are not an issue (he has tried them but thinks they are horrible). I know they are very popular at secondary school so will keep an eye on this.
He does seem to have been sensible today, eg at breakfast only wanted one helping of shreddies, this may be because there was the major name calling at school yesterday.
Thank you for all your views, suggestions and sympathy.
If there’s name calling at school, have you spoken to the school about this? It must be awful for him
He's resigned to the name calling. Which is probably a good job as it's Secondary school in September.
Cheers for the sympathy though.
We been running yesterday and today, plus I've got the swimming timetable for half term!
Personally I would work more on building self confidence than slimming him down. The underlying message here is: there is indeed something wrong with you and we have to fix you. Not saying that you are doing something wrong, OP, but this is how we are conditioned to believe: slim=good, big=bad and unhealthy.
If you read the latest research you can see that people with what is considered high BMI are generally as healthy as the average people. Also, diets and portion control can lead to overeating and binge eating.
So I would be very careful as to what message you are sending him. I would work more on self acceptance, would talk to the school about name calling (this is completely unacceptable) and make sure he is active (not as a means to control his weight, but as a way of appreciating that his body is capable and strong).
About name calling: would it be ok if your child were teased because he wears glasses? Or because of skin colour? If not, why is it ok to be teased because he is big, and try to change that?
1800 calories seems a hell of a lot.
Weight is mostly what you eat, exercise will tone you but you need to look at his diet.
Tbh it sounds like he eats too much. I think a frank conversation about what he eats will help. When I was that age I wasn't allowed to eat anything when out with friends apart from the odd sweet. Eating other childrens lunches is a huge no no.
DD is 12. She is in the school hockey and netball teams, swim squad and cross country squad. 3 mornings a week she does dance/ strength conditioning and more netball practice. She also does 5 k park run every week, and plays tennis at least once a week with possibly another session for fun. She basically does sport at least once a day, usually twice and walks 35 mins to school and back.
I've given this context because she eats a lot less than 1800 calories per day and manages fine. She's 40th percentile for height and 45th percentile for weight.
1800 calories is too much.
Audree, thank you for your perspective, I am totally with you, which is why I'm agonising over a big sit down talk with him. I really do want to send a positive message. He doesn't really think he is fat, and he's not huge but it is getting worse. When he tells me about the name calling I have always pointed out that it's very unkind, does it matter what size someone is? it's what you are like as a person that matters. Handily we have an absolutely gorgeous, great fun, family member who is quite big and I use that, myself, and cuddly grandparents as an example of who cares what size you are! I think that has worked to a large extent.
On the other hand, it isn't healthy; it certainly won't be healthy if he carries on at this rate. Life is harder if you get overweight. I so want my kids to be relaxed around food but having insisted on healthy eating as they grew up as soon as they have a bit of freedom they've gone off the rails.
We are upping the exercise and I am going to say to him he must only have a couple of small sweets if he is going out and about as I want him to put healthy food in his body. How did your parent enforce you not eating outside the house? Were they very strict or you very well behaved?
I think 1800 calories would be fine; he's 160 cm tall, I looked up the guidelines and it's about 2000. I'm sure it's the extra bits that are causing the issue.
In some ways I would like to tackle the school, also about letting them swap lunches! I worked as a TA and dinner lady for several years and no children were allowed to swap lunches. I was also very on the ball if there was any meanness or name calling. Anyone called anyone fat I would have them over to me and ask them to call me fat (I am cuddly to say the least), I was a popular TA and it got my point across! Sadly, at DS's school they only have the one dinner lady between the 3 year 6 classes.
I'm wondering if I'm being defeatist but how could they tackle the name calling in the playground ? If it's not in the playground it happens while he's out playing.
I now work at the local secondary school and they certainly could not tackle the name calling unless it is part of a wider bullying issue. They are a good school but I have the inside view. If it's not "fat", it's "gay", "retard", "special" and so on. Every time I hear this or some pupil tells me about it I tackle it, I like to think I'm chipping away at it and making them think about it at least.
Thanks for the replies, it has really helped me to talk it through and hear the different points of view.
I would recommend a book “Your child’s weight; helping without harming” by Ellyn Satter. I come from a family with a very distorted view on weight, used to weigh 47 kg until I had kids, and I am very familiar with extreme and less extreme ways of controlling weight.
The book helped me tremendously when I had my own kids. It was easy with my first kid who is naturally slim, and I used to congratulate myself on my parenting skills with regards to eating and weight; not so easy with my second who is on the heavy side. The book saved us.
He is overweight so 1800 calories clearly isn't OK.
For context I'm 5ft 5 and size 12 and eat 1300 calories per day.
I was relatively well behaved but it was manners that meant I didn't eat when out with friends. I took one sweet if offered and that was it. If you aren't giving him money, how is he getting so much extra food?
The name calling is wrong. But by focusing your annoyance/anger on this you are distracting yourself from the fact your son is eating too much.
Oh, OP, this is such a tough one. I have a lot of compassion for you. What I will say is that you really need to focus on the food more than the exercise. It’s 90% energy input and 10% energy output (unfortunately). I speak as someone who is overweight: I am 5’9 and weigh 200lbs, so I am about 4 stone overweight. If I was eating 1800 calories a day I can’t imagine how heavy I could get. It really is too much.
I agree it's the food that's the issue not the exercise as the saying goes 'you can't outrun the knife and fork'!
Can you make sure he's using a child's plate to control portion sizes ? And are you weighing food out to check calorie content? Cut back on carbs and increase veg and protein. What about drinks ? They're often full of sugar .
The NHS says that people should not eat more than 30g of added sugars per day. It is quite easy to go over. Check out the quantities of sugar in the things he eats. Then discuss this advice with him.
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