Written by Doctor G

Weight Loss and Kids

I would appreciate an entry about weight loss for kids. My 11 year old son is overweight. Thanks and I enjoy your posts.

Lori, in (state not provided)

Hi Lori. I’m sorry that you and your son are dealing with this tough issue. Without knowing more specifics about your situation, I will give you some general guidelines. All of these are assuming that your son is overweight and not morbidly obese, an important question to ask your doctor or the school nurse if you have one.

As a rule, overweight kids and tweens should not be encouraged to lose weight. They should be encouraged to change their lifestyles to be much healthier, and that should help them maintain their current weights until they have a chance to grow taller. This lets height catch up to weight without starting a cycle of dieting to lose weight and then eating “normally” again and probably gaining weight. Don’t talk to your child much about weight. Focus on health – yours as well as his.

Here are some proven weight management tools. Pick the ones you aren’t already doing and implement them, one at a time, into your family’s routine.

1. No soda, and very little juice. Kids should have no more than 8 oz of sweetened drinks per day, and none of it should be soda. Stop buying it, even for the grownups at home.
2. Eat breakfast. Every day, hungry or not. It seems weird to teach a child who is overeating to eat when he isn’t hungry, but skipping breakfast is bad for his learning and his weight.
3. Supervised dinner. Eat dinner together, or at the least with a supervising adult in the room with your son and the food every night. 50% of his plate should have vegetables, 25% starch and 25% protein.
4. Seconds? If your son wants seconds on something, it is usually on the starch. That is because this is the food that our saliva converts into sugar so it tastes great! If he wants seconds on something he needs to a) finish all the food he has (no seconds on pasta if there is still broccoli or fish on his plate) and b) wait 15 minutes at the table. This is to give him a chance to feel if he is full. Don’t leave the food on the table, leave it on the counter so a person has to get up from the table for seconds. And if you’re taking seconds of a starch you must take seconds of vegetables as well.
5. Eat out no more than once per week.
6. Watch no more than 2 hours of screen time (TV, video games, computer), with the exception of actual homework, in any day.
7. Vigorous physical activity at least one hour every day.
There are a lot of emotional issues and family issues that come up around food and weight. If you have a question pertaining to any of that mess, I hope you’ll write back to me!
Anyone else have some tips for establishing healthy habits in tweens?

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6 thoughts on “Weight Loss and Kids”

  1. Dr. G. – your posts on screen time last spring/summer were GREAT advice. Can you point back to them for this family? I found that looking at my own habits helped me reduce the screen time for my children.

  2. Dr. G. – Thanks, this is awesome. Are you able to successfully implement all these with your young family?

    1. So far so good, Ed! Of course that is easy for me to say for now, as my kids don’t yet have a lot of buying power. This gets harder as kids have more autonomy and access to buying their own snacks!

  3. Great answer — the physical activity is always a challenge in the winter, but we put a ‘punching bag’ in the basement and the boys love to put on boxing gloves and go downstairs and work up a sweat 🙂

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