Eleven-Year-Old Is Too Heavy

Get advice on how to help an 11-year-old control her weight.
My daughter is 11 years old and weighs about 120 lb. She plays outside, rides her bike, and does all kinds of active stuff. She really doesn't eat much -- breakfast and lunch at school and dinner at home. I don't allow her to eat before dinner and sometimes she will have a snack after dinner. I don't know what to do to help her control her weight.
It is hard for me to know how much of a weight problem your daughter has because I don't know how tall she is. If she is a very short child, 54 or 55 inches, then 120 lbs. is very overweight. If she is tall for her age, let's say about 62 inches, then 120 lbs. could be a reasonable weight for an athletic, muscular child.

In any case, what you want to do is focus on healthy eating behaviors. In spite of the fact that you feel your daughter doesn't eat much, if she is overweight it is likely that she is eating too much, particularly too much of the wrong kinds of foods. The number of meals isn't important; the type of food in each meal is. It would probably be helpful for your daughter and you to meet with a nutritionist, to review her eating habits and get some information about making appropriate food choices. You daughter needs to understand this information, as she is the one who makes food choices when she is away from home. If she's not interested and informed, it's unlikely that she'll make any changes.

It's good that your daughter is active; exercise is an important component of weight control. But consider the type of exercise she's doing. Simply playing outdoors with her friends may not be enough. More vigorous or prolonged exercise may be necessary to help her maintain an appropriate weight. Your physician or a physical therapist could review appropriate exercise guidelines for children her age.

Shari Nethersole is a physician at Children's Hospital, Boston, and an instructor in Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. She graduated from Yale University and Harvard Medical School, and did her internship and residency at Children's Hospital, Boston. As a pediatrician, she tries to work with parents to identify and address their concerns.

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