100 lb. Club - My 11YO son is concerned about his weight.../

07-31-2011, 09:46 PM
He has always been a little heavy, but I have not worried about it. He is active - plays basketball, baseball, etc., and seems reasonably fit - and the last thing I want to do is introduce him to the crazy world of weight control.

Yet, after he was weighed at the doctor this morning, he said he's worried. He doesn't get teased (thank goodness!) by anyone other than his brother (who doesn't do it often, but does it enough to make me furious), and he doesn't have any serious self-esteem issues that I've noticed.

Of my five children, he's the one that I'm concerned about. One of them is on the light side of "normal." The other three are on the heavier side of "normal," but still definitely within that range. But I have been making a more serious effort to not use food as rewards (though it's SO much easier than other things), to avoid buying the worst offenders nutrition-wise (soda, cookies, etc.), and have filled my fridge with fruit and raw, easily-accessible veggies. I also cook relatively healthy, balanced meals. I have also invited him on my daily walks (and he accepts about half the time, as does my youngest daughter), and he seems to enjoy it. All of this has happened more consistently in the last month or so, before he made his 'announcement.'

So, the question is: What now? If he were an adult, I would introduce him to food journalling, calorie awareness (or counting, if he wanted), and talk to him about the pros and cons of using the scale as a tool, as well as basic nutrition info such as macronutrients, etc. I have heard so many "I learned to manage my weight when I was young, and it's great to have gained that skill so early" stories. And so many "My obsession with weight began when I was really young, and it's led to disordered eating and a lifetime of obesity" stories.

The "experts" say to just do what I'm doing and leave it there. Provide healthy food and model eating it for him (which gives me added motivation to stay OP), do active things with him, discourage excessive screen time, etc.

I'm curious as what our panel of 3FC experts have to say! 'Cuz, when it comes to diet and nutrition, we have a ton of unrecognized expertise (along with lots of anecdotal data that may or may not be representative and tons of legends and myths). It's a great and interesting mix.

07-31-2011, 09:55 PM
You're inviting him to join in on daily activities. You're keeping healthy food choices on hand. You're encouraging him to be active. You're not rewarding with food, and you're also not using guilt or shame or words like "bad" to go with foods.

With an 11 year old, I'd say you're pretty spot on. :yes:

Other than that I might ask him why he is concerned to get at what he's thinking.

07-31-2011, 10:03 PM
I agree with lovely. Do what you are doing now and he should be fine. It is ok for an 11 year old boy to be a little overweight they most often thin out in jr high and high school. If he still has the weight problem at that time and is still concerned then it would be ok to introduce hi to dieting.

07-31-2011, 10:06 PM
I had a heavy 11 year old, I now have a big bodied 15 year old, is a well put together young man, not fat but a big build, beautiful broad shoulders and chest, but I think he will always have to watch his weight.
Right now, he eats good food, but masses of it, he is active and happy at 15 nearly 16, but was concerned at 11/12. Teased a bit at school etc, not terribly but a bit..

I think boys often pudge up a bit before puberty? My experience anyway with my 2 and 4 nephews.

07-31-2011, 10:09 PM
I think Lovely's right. Ask him why he's concerned. Cook healthy meals, don't use food as a reward, and continue to encourage him and his siblings to be active. I'm assuming his doctor wasn't very concerned about his weight, since you didn't mention anything about that.

07-31-2011, 10:43 PM
Great suggestions. And somehow, I forgot about the many stories I've heard of young boys going through adolescence and really thinning out.

No, the doctor didn't mention concern. We were at the urgent care clinic, though, which tends to be a strictly "treat 'em (the acute condition) and street 'em" operation, and they were just getting his weight to calculate the correct dosage for the antibiotic.

We are just about ready to head out for our walk, and I think I'll follow Lovely's suggestion and delve more deeply into the reason for his concern. I have two sisters who have daughters who are significantly overweight, and maybe that plays into it? I'll talk to my sweet boy. Unless he really seems interested in a "Here's how it's done" weight control talk, I will just play it like I have been. He does buy snack food for himself, though, so maybe I'll just engage him in a little "here's how to read the labels" discussion.

Thanks for your thoughts and comments. I really like that sweet boy, and this is an area that is so hard to get right, and so easy to get completely wrong (as evidenced by the number of "My mom really messed with my head when I was young, and now I'm morbidly obese" stories I hear).

08-01-2011, 12:20 AM
Everyone blames Mom, though, because Mom is the most convenient target.

It sounds like you're doing just fine. If he grows up to whine that it's all your fault, that's on him, not you.

08-01-2011, 08:16 AM
It sounds like you're doing just great. He's probably going to shoot up several inches in the next couple of years, which will really make a difference in the way the weight appears.

I'm wondering if his concern boils down to the fact that he's aware of weight for the first time in his life after watching you strive to lose. It's definitely worth talking to him about it. Let us know how it goes.

08-01-2011, 08:39 AM

As a now adult who grew up overweight/obese, my mother saying "you need to lose weight" was the biggest hinderance to me. She wanted me to lose without creating the supportive environment for it (ice cream everyday as a child...) and it just made me feel horrible and cause me to gain more weight through high school that I'm now struggling to take off.

As others have said, ask him why he's concerned (maybe someone did make fun of him and he didn't tell you?) and remind him that he's still growing and that his body may "catch up" a little later. Make sure to STOP his brother from teasing him. It may not seem like all that much teasing, but any teasing about one's weight can lead to problems later in life. I really don't know what sense of humor your son has, but if he's concerned about his weight I can bet that he doesn't find his brother's jokes funny.

You're already doing the right thing by making all of the tools available to him. Continue to model healthy behavior for your son and maybe you can both exercise or prepare meals together :)

08-01-2011, 10:29 AM
I think what you are already doing is awesome. I definitely agree with talking to him about why he is concerned. You can also explain to him that a lot of boys are a little chubby at his age and then lose it when they get into their teens. I have watched the same thing with most of my brothers and male friends and now with nephews.

I would also add that if you aren't already doing so then sometimes explain a bit to him, and your other kids, why you make the food choices for your family that you do. Not getting into the dieting to lose weight thing too much, but explaining why it is better to eat fresh veggies and lean meat as opposed to brownies and pizza all the time. Talk to them about nutrients and the difference between processed and unprocessed foods, things like that.

April Snow
08-01-2011, 12:08 PM
I think you are on the right track, although the one piece I would add is teaching him a little bit about nutrition and why fresh fruits and veggies and lean proteins are better choices than candy and sweets and fast food. I don't mean going into extended detail and not to the level of macronutrients, just that he understands a little bit more of which foods are the best choices.

My son is 7 but understands that there are "good foods" that make you healthy and help you grow big and strong, and "treat foods" that are good but we don't eat all the time. I don't classify anything as a bad food (even if there are some things I just wouldn't even buy in the first place), but he knows that some foods require more moderation and limited quantities than others.

My son also knows that drinking lots of water and getting lots of activity are also things that keep you healthy and help you grow big and strong. To me, it's about the overall healthy habits when they are young, not about the weight itself.

08-01-2011, 12:21 PM
I agree with most everyone here in saying that I feel you are doing an amazing job and handling the situation with rare grace. I also agree that it might be good to understand why he's feeling that way, since it doesn't seem like there's much going on externally to provoke it.


08-01-2011, 10:07 PM
I absolutely agree with everything that's already been said. I also wonder (as one other person did) if he is just now becoming more aware of healthy eating and healthy weight because you are losing weight and getting fit. Whether we realize it or not, our kids mimic everything we do to some degree. And if even one person (his brother) teases, it makes him aware.

Maybe it's time to have a really serious talk with the teasing brother. Maybe approach it like this: "How would you feel if someone teased me about my weight?" I bet he would jump to your defense. Then add, "What if someone teased me about how tall I am?" Etc. Got through a few scenarios with YOU (his mother!) being teased, and then turn it around to how everyone feels bad when they are teased, even if in fun.

I really do think you're handling this in the best way possible.


08-01-2011, 11:16 PM
My son is also 11. I have noticed that he gets a double dimple (as opposed to 1 dimple) right before he has a growth spurt.

Maybe he is about to have a growth spurt?

This summer, all of my children have been talking a bit about calories, since my food plan focusses on calorie counting. It has become a part of our lives, but not in a negative way.

Goddess Jessica
08-01-2011, 11:28 PM
Let me just put my vote in with April Snow. Teaching the whys of nutrition is a GREAT complement that age and will help him as he gets older. Plus, teaching him nutrition will keep him from classifying "eating healthy" as a quick-fix diet plan.

08-02-2011, 01:11 PM
I have an 11 yr old boy as well. I've noticed that a lot of elementary kids are a little on the heavier side and I've decided on of the reasons is they are now more independent and tend to feed and get snacks for themselves. Now comes teaching about healthy choices and making sure they have options.

My boy isn't active and is kind of on the kind heavier side. In fact, a doctor chewed me out over it. He doesn't look overweight with a double chin and big tummy, but he just kind of is. On top of it, he broke his foot this summer, so it's been a lot of sitting around. Poor guy!

I too have invited him on walks (when he was able to). He also hears me constantly counting calories and is now more aware of calories in drinks, etc. Once in a while he'll talk about the labels. He understands that because of his foot and not being able to move as much, that he has to eat less as well.

My boy thinks he's fat and that just kills me. I know he's sees himself through us (his parents). He's no where near as overweight as us.

It comes down to modeling and I'm doing my best (on most days) to do that.

Best wishes to you!

08-04-2011, 01:26 AM
Thank you so much for the thoughts and advice!

At long last, I was able to chat privately with my son. (My youngest daughter was walking with us, and it's a private chat kind of topic.) He said nothing in particular triggered his weight concern, and he's not really that concerned about it. It bothers him sometimes, but when I probed for a trigger, he couldn't identify one.

But you can't live in this country 10 minutes without getting the message that skinnier is better. I admire Michelle Obama and her desire to help fight the serious problem of childhood obesity (and deal with the stupid comments people make about her weight, even though I think she looks great), but it's impossible to hear the message that this is something under your control without also concluding that it's your "fault" and you're "doing something wrong." It's a tough, tough tightrope to navigate.

And even boys are being inundated with body image messages. I like to watch Superhero cartoons with my boys. Thor in the 1960s was muscular. Thor in the 2010 Avengers series has a chest and arms so large that one of his arms has to outweigh the impossibly slender Jane Foster. Same with Superman. The current cartoon version dwarfs the 1930s version. The Hulk of the cartoon has to outweigh the well-built Lou Ferrigno by 100 pounds of pure muscle.

And enough pointless venting. He wants to give up soda except for an occasional treat. I told him I would provide Crystal light packets or frozen fruit pieces to add to water or whatever he wants to aid the transition (and beyond the transition. Not a big fan of artificial sweeteners, but not going to burden the sweet boy with my twisted need for perfection). Other than that, he just wants to continue eating lots of fruits and add some more veggies and keep going on walks and playing basketball, etc. And look forward to his growth spurts.

I'm so grateful for the help. He doesn't need calorie counting in his life. But exercise and healthy food are things he could definitely use. Interestingly enough, his older brother (not the one who teases him sometimes) has decided to forgo soda too. Yay for limiting liquid sugar!

Arctic Mama
08-04-2011, 01:46 AM
You're doing wonderfully, we get so many conflicting messages as parents and it can be hard to sort through what is and isn't wise advice. Keep teaching him how to nourish himself well, encouraging his hobbies and activities, and loving on him regardless. That is the best any parent can do.