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How do you help a child lose weight?

(38 Posts)
menagerie Fri 17-Jun-11 00:05:38

I know the obvious answer: get him to exercise more and eat less food, especially less fatty and sweet stuff. My problem is that he was severely underweight for the first four years of his life, so doctors recommended a very high fat, high sugar diet. Eventually it worked and he got an appetite but now it's unstoppable. As he was always in pain when he ate due to chronic reflux, he never learned to associate food with hunger, and satisfying hunger. He was forced to eat when he didn't want to and now he has no natural brakes on his appetite. He's now nearly 9 and his BMI says he is well overweight, half way to being obese. He doesn't look it. He's very sturdily built any way - chunky bones, and stocky body but he does have a chubby tummy with cellulite on it. shock

We have a healthy(ish) diet - freshly cooked meals every day - not fatty, always eat 5 a day, but he seems to constantly ask for snacks. I do say no, but often find he's helped himself to yoghurts (3 a day sometimes) and big glasses of juice and milk. If I see, I gently suggest water instead, and am not buying yoghurts as often as I used to, but this doesn't seem to have made much difference.

Is it best to try and just stabilise his weight and wait for his height to grow into it iyswim, or should I be actively helping him reduce? He is 132cm and weighs 34.8 kg.

I'd love to hear from people who successfully helped their children lose weight or get slim. I have horrible memories of my sister being put on diets as a child and she is now medically obese. She hated all that denial so as soon as she had control of her own food she crammed full of sweets and crisps and never stopped. I do let my children have treats every day because of this, as I don't want them to be these forbidden temptations. But he doesn't seem to have more than other kids do. (E.g Quavers a smoothie and a frube in packed lunch, small cake or couple of biscuits after school.) Is that far too much every day?

Sorry this is long. I realise I feel very emotional about his weight. I spent so many years trying to coax him to eat, and feeding him up, I probably didn't ease off soon enough. I can't bear now trying to stop him from eating so heartily, but know I have to change that attitude.

All tips welcome.

BooBooGlass Fri 17-Jun-11 00:13:25

I think you're kiddign yourself tbh. You are allowing treats every day in an effort to not give hima complex about food. When actually, you are doing just that. You are failing to teach him moderation, which is probably the reason he is overweight. An 8 year old child can't make these decisions for themselves. If my dd was allowed treats very day, she'd probably take them too. There is no need to forbid food. But don't make it a free for all either. He's probably getting a lot of calories from drinks, so that's one of the first things to look out. Smoothies are packed with sugar, as are yoghurts. I don;t buy squash as I think it's full of shite, so in my house it's water or milk. No other options, especially since dd has had fillings which I suspect were down to me being too generous with fruit juice previously blush.
I do think you're in a bit of denial. No healthy 8 year old should be 'stocky'. You say he doesn't look obese but then say he has a chubby tummy. You;re doign the right thing by trying to tackle this now. But I do think you need to actually properly accept that there is a problem. I think you're halfway there.

BoysAreLikeDogs Fri 17-Jun-11 00:17:09


I would get him checked out by GP first of all

In the meantime

green milk not blue, lose the juices so the choice is milk or water

get rid of biscuits/cake for after school snack, fruit, cubes of cheese/cucumber/carrot instead

no need to have quavers in his packed lunch every day, do Mon/Weds/Fri instead? Again, lose the smoothie, substitute with water

Portions - what's his portion size like? I'll bet although you give him 'healthy' food he's having adult-ish size portions

Exercise - can you substitute school run by car with walking/scooting to/from school, get the whole family moving on weekends (bike rides/swimming), do you have a trampoline

good luck

winnybella Fri 17-Jun-11 00:18:23

I remember my DS was 36kg at 146cm. And he wasn't super-skinny, just slim.
You have to take responsibilty for his diet. There's no need to drink juice, it contains no fibre, but lots of sugar. How big are his portions?
You tell him that eating that much is not healthy (obviously do not focus on the body image iyswim), fat will grow over his internal organs and will cause him to be ill. Or something similar. No need to skirt around the issue.

winnybella Fri 17-Jun-11 00:19:10

Sign him up for sport-karate, football?

melliebobs Fri 17-Jun-11 07:24:16

AT that age i would really recommend the MEND programme. I used to be programme manager for it and it gets REALLY good results and it's something the whole family is recommended to get involved with. Any questions let me know

FamilyCircus Fri 17-Jun-11 07:38:34

menagerie, I sympathise as we are in a similar situation. DS is 9.5, taller and slightly heavier than your DS (last time I weighed him anyway). He rarely has sweets but overeats on basics like bread and cheese. It is incredibly difficult not to have these things available.

My sister was an overweight child as well and then went on a diet at 15 and has suffered with eating disorders ever since. Her life is bloody miserable and I do not want that for DS, so I struggle to do the right thing.

I don't buy 'treats' anymore, not that they are the cause of his excess weight, but because it doesn't do him any good to be eating them as well as his normal food. We do lots of exercise together as well; cycling and Wii Fit are good as these are more fun for him as he's not sporty at all.

I'll keep watching this thread and will have a look at the link mellie put up (thanks mellie).

cybbo Fri 17-Jun-11 07:47:48

Good post by booboo

yy to MUCH more exercise too, both organised and walks in park, beach, woods etc.

cybbo Fri 17-Jun-11 07:48:51

Are your children just going to the kitchen and helping themselves? Where are you when this is happening? I'd be fuming if my kitchen was 'open all hours'

FamilyCircus Fri 17-Jun-11 07:53:33

Yes, my kitchen and living room are open plan so it is 'open all hours' technically.

When I lived at home and my sister's eating disorders were fully established, my mum padlocked the kitchen up at night so she couldn't get to the food. I'm sure it made everything worse.

When I had DS I had developed all sorts of ideas about how to manage healthy eating and I congratulated myself on having a toddler that would eat anything put in front of him. It has gone wrong somewhere along the line.

cybbo Fri 17-Jun-11 08:10:10

Dont wish to labour the point but open plan living is what we have essentially, and my lot always ask me first if they can have something.

I can police it then, otherwise my cupboards would look like the locusts had been

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 08:17:27

But the OP said her DS will help himself cybbo...she can't watch the fridge all the time and she doesn't want to lock it.

OP, you have low fat milk? Plus just stop buying don't need it in the house at all. We don't have it as the DC will guzzle it all....and they simply dont need it...water milk and you have plenty of fruit in the house as a rule? What about biscuits and other snacks? At your DS age its easier to sort than it will be when he gets to secondary...then he'll have money and time...

FamilyCircus Fri 17-Jun-11 08:39:31

Cybbo, I'm worried I'm going to be flamed as this is obviously a contentious issue but...

I've consciously taught DS to take food if he is hungry as I've read (loads of times) that children develop the best eating habits if they are allowed to eat what they want. I half agree with this as DS does choose sensibly, just too often. Typically he'll grab an apple, a couple of slices of bread, a wad of cheese and a glass of milk. I've cut down to low fat cheese (urgh) and milk and buy wholemeal bread instead of white and we don't use spread or butter at all. I tackle him when I see him with food and probe him as to whether he is hungry or just fancies having something to eat. I take it away from him sometimes but it feels very wrong and I think it's counter-productive.

I need some help. Obviously I have been influenced by my family history and I thought I was doing everything right. I don't know why DS wants to eat as much as he does. Perhaps they are connected and I've caused this.

I'm going to see our GP about the MEND programme linked to above.

His diet is obviously a problem, but I think it's only a piece of the puzzle. DP is morbidly obese (although he is disabled and has mobility issues - he was still morbidly obese before this but was in reality just very muscular) and his three siblings and parents are too. I know genetic obesity is often dismissed as a load of bollocks but I personally believe that it exists. The lack of exercise is a causative factor too. If I wasn't keeping a lid on this in some respects I know DS could absolutely balloon.

Sorry OP, didn't mean to hijack.

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 09:16:26

I think that t should be remembered that 3 balanced meals a day plus one or two small snacks is adequate...I don't know how often the OPs or your son FamilyCircle are snacking...but if they have 3 meals a day with enough of everything...then snacks need to be few and far between....mine have the run of the fruit bowl.....which is apples, grapes and oranges...they will have something like two crackers and a yoghurt before bed...and that's it.

Meals need to be the right size too....a portion of meat is as big as their palm....plenty of different veg or salad....pasta or rice or potatoes and we dont usually have a pudding.

God that sounds miserable! We do have treats....maybe once a week we have a chinese...and at weekends only we have a ful breakfast on the Saturday...I'm just trying to illustrate what we eat becasue neither we nor the kds are overweight....crisps simply dont happen DC will eat a massivve bag within 2 days (so will I blush

menagerie Fri 17-Jun-11 09:28:42


Thanks for all the posts. Familycircus's problem and mine seem very similar. It is particularly difficult if you have witnessed eating disorders in childhood. I worry about my sis. young family and she is cruising towards an early death. I don't want him hung up on treats and food as she was.

My son doesn't help himself to food very often. Usually it's in the mornings, when he grabs two petit filou while I feed the cat or fill the kettle and they're gone before I know it. But if he does that I just don't buy them for a couple of weeks. (I know there's some MN thing about PF - never tracked down the thread - are they devil's food or healthy?) It doesn't help that he has a twin brother who is skinny (I've done some calculations on the quiet and skinny son, who exercises far more, typically eats less too.)

I probably do give portions that are too large. I've cut them down a bit and use smaller plates too.

Here's what he eats in a day, typically. I have no idea how far off target it is. There's so much info about how to feed toddlers but at junior age there are no guidelines:

breakfast: 2 slices of wholemeal toast with low fat spread. One has marmite and sometimes slivers of low fat cheese on it, the other has jam.
Small glass of orange juice
2 petit filou (not every day)

Wholemeal sandwich of steamed chicken breast or gouda or low cat cheddar
Innocent smoothie
Quavers (as they're only 88 calories) or handful of pretzels

Snack after school: two biscuits or an ice lolly (under 100 calories)

Tea :
Spaghetti bolognese - 75-100 grams spaghetti (before cooking)
2 tablespoons of home made sauce
or steamed salmon, 1 serving spoon of rice, 2-3 serving spoons of steamed veg
fruit or small pudding (e.g. one scoop of ice cream or banana custard - low fat custard)

1/2-1 piece of fruit
Glass of semi skimmed milk. Occasionally 1 slice wholemeal toast with low fat spread

Exercise: walks or cycles to school each day (total 30 mins walking or 15 mins cycling)

Weekly: gymnastics, swimming, cricket, school PE and games, after school sports club, 5 mile cycle at weekends with me - total - 6 hours exercise plus getting to school (we never use the car.)

MEND looks great but there isn't one near us and DP has the car during the day, so I can't get to it - lousy public transport in and around our village. But could look into if there is one in local town.

We do have a trampoline but he rarely uses it. He has dyspraxia and is very unco-ordinated. I know that's all the more reason to get him moving. But I have it too so I'm hopeless at playing ball games with them. We cycle or climb hills instead though...

Sorry this is so long but I thought it would be good to get a thread going on how to help our kids get slim. the advice on the web generally seems very vague and never tackles the emotional pitfalls. Today I said, we need to get that tummy down a bit as it looks quite swollen (I used swollen not fat on purpose) and he looked rather fretful when i said it.) I really want getting him slim to be a totally positive experience for him.

melliebobs Fri 17-Jun-11 09:31:29

Just want to add with mend you don't need a referral off a gp you can book onto it urself through the site or ring up. and from my experience running it I had to do so much promotion with gps and practice nurses as they had no idea what it was or that it was even available!

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 09:48:22

menagerie it's certainly not leaping out as a terrible diet...not at all. BUt I do think that swapping the filous for natural live yoghurt with a dash of honey, might be better....mine love do's very sweet but the live yoghurt is much healthier.

I think the brekkie isn't BAD but I also think there's no need for cheese so early...porrige or weetabix would be for lunch...if he's having an innocent smoothie then he doesn't need a froob....stick a banana in along with the apple and gve him water to drink instead.
Also....and I am not a dietician....but I used to live with a doctor who told me that low fat spread was the very devil....he said that butter is far better for you moderation. A glance at your list and I can see your DS is eating around 6 slices of bread a day which I think is too then butter would not be sensible...maybe cut out the morning and supper bread.

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 09:49:28

But those are just MY thoughts and a doctor will know how to help you best....I just wanted to maybe highlight what stands out.

menagerie Fri 17-Jun-11 09:54:11

Mumbling, thank you. Those are all good points. I think we'll lose the yoghurts all together for now, and the frubes. I could swap the smoothie for water too and add another piece of fruit or carrot and cucumber... but it often comes home uneaten.

melliebobs - I had heard of MEND and think it sounds brilliant. I think our GP has leaflets in the surgery - I definitely got details somewhere. I've just looked it up online and there is a programme we could get to in the nearest town if they'll let us on (there's one much nearer but we can't get to it as there's no public transport to it.) I've emailed them for details. Can parents join in? I've just done both our BMIs and mine is far higher than his. So I'm much more overweight than he is. I'd love us to get fit together.

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 09:55:12

Just googled and it seems an innocent smoothie has around 150 cals....froobs around 100 and petit filous have a tonne of sugar.....I think that simply cutting out these could help a lot....if he has 2 petit filous, one smoothie and one froob daily then that's over 300 cals in snacks and drinks alone...

Try the natural plain's lovely with a bit of honey in it...sometimes I have also smashed up strawberries and stirred them kids like doing that theselves.

MumblingRagDoll Fri 17-Jun-11 09:57:42

Well there's nothing wrong with things coming home sister had a preemie and she was also preoccupied with her DD finishing her lunch....its fine if they don't eat it just keep giving him what you know t be good....and ignore the uneaten things...when he gets hungry he'll eat them.

I hope you manage to get into does sound great, my sister could do with that for her DD...she is mre overweight than your DS sounds....and I think you're doing a great job of tackling this now...much easier at this young age.

hardcolin Fri 17-Jun-11 10:07:04

Yes I would definitely cut out the juice - it's nasty stuff packed with sugar and little else.

Get him into a habit of drinking water. Water is best for you and it helps fill you up as well - if your DS is craving a snack, a drink of water before anything else might help.
Have it on the table at mealtimes as well.
Cut out the white stuff. Brown, wholewheat bread is better and wholewheat pasta is delicious too. I won't buy white pasta again.
I also believe that a good breakfast is important. My dd will ask for snack after snack if she hasn't eaten the breakfast I made that morning. I can tell the difference, it's that noticable.
Keep the fruitbowl stocked, and in an accessible spot smile

The two main rules I have about food
1) Not to eat & watch. When their minds are watching the tv, they don't take notice of what they are tasting and so they aren't registering that they are satisfied.
2) Don't reward with food. Either as a treat for doing good or to make him feel better. Both of these can lead to habit-snacking and comfort eating. Just don't go there.

Get him weighed before you start, that way you will know what he has lost even if you can't see it straight away. Keep it light & fun if you can.
You are already on your way to helping him. He'll soon come right.

FamilyCircus Fri 17-Jun-11 10:55:34

menagerie, I think DS has dyspraxia as well; my sister certainly has it and I think it had an effect on her weight. Nobody wants to exercise if it leads to humiliation or even injury.

Your DS's diet sounds a lot like my DS's, except that my DS will eat less at meal times (because I no longer give him as much) but will snack more during the day.

It is horrible having to actually talk to them about their weight. I haven't been brave enough to tackle that talk properly yet. I told him that we are all eating healthily from now on as 'daddy needs good food to help with his disability'. So we've stopped buying treats and we have low fat everything and still he's overweight. I think this is how he is meant to be and for him to be considered slim he will have to eat less than other children.

A supportive thread is a great idea. I'd love to hear from someone that has had an overweight child and managed to deal with it.

Mellie, what kind of results did you get with the children at MEND?

foreverondiet Fri 17-Jun-11 12:07:23

Its a healthy diet but a bit big - ie sounds like adults sized meals? Why not just to see type all into myfitnesspal etc and work out how many calories?

Also I don't think its just about calories, because he's eating too many empty calories - sugar and refined carbs eg in the yoghurt or pudding. Also quavers are empty calories.

Also I don't really understand why anyone would buy low fat spread. Ditch it. It might be lower fat than butter but its not necessary and still fat and often unhealthy fat.

breakfast: 2 slices of wholemeal toast with low fat spread. One has marmite and sometimes slivers of low fat cheese on it, the other has jam.
Small glass of orange juice
2 petit filou (not every day)

Breakfast sounds ok, but I would stop buying the petit filou and try buy natural yoghurt instead, and questionable whether a 8 YO needs yoghurt as well as 2 slices toast. Do you need the low fat spread? Does he need it as well as jam and cheese? My DD loves yeo valley natural yoghurt with grapes. But thats her whole breakfast! Or one slice of toast.

Wholemeal sandwich of steamed chicken breast or gouda or low cat cheddar
Innocent smoothie
Quavers (as they're only 88 calories) or handful of pretzels

Cut the smoothie, water instead and cut the quavers. Its not just the calories, they are empty calories, together that's more than I ate for lunch as an adult even before I dieted (ie when I was overweight). My 7.5 YO DD has a big appetite and would be full with the sandwich and frube, wouldn't even attempt the apple, let alone quavers or smoothie. If foods coming home uneaten you are giving him too much.

Snack after school: two biscuits or an ice lolly (under 100 calories)

There are empty calories, stick to yoghurt, cheese or fruit if hungry. Or maybe ricecakes.

Tea :
Spaghetti bolognese - 75-100 grams spaghetti (before cooking)
2 tablespoons of home made sauce
or steamed salmon, 1 serving spoon of rice, 2-3 serving spoons of steamed veg
fruit or small pudding (e.g. one scoop of ice cream or banana custard - low fat custard)

FAR FAR FAR too much spaghetti - 75g dry is an adults portion (look at pack if you don't believe me!) again my 7 YO would be totally full on 45-50g, I usually make 75g between her and DS1 who is 5.

Also why are you offering a sweet dessert to a child who is a bit overweight - again fruit or yoghurt? Sweet desserts are a weekend treat here.

1/2-1 piece of fruit
Glass of semi skimmed milk. Occasionally 1 slice wholemeal toast with low fat spread

Amazed that he can eat anything else after that tea. Switch milk to 1%? My kids are only allowed rice cakes and water after their tea - maybe introduce that policy?

cybbo Fri 17-Jun-11 13:20:29

Scrap the supper

I say 'kitchens closed' after tea

Good Luck

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