Overweight Nine-Year-Old

My daughter is nine years old and will be starting the fourth grade this year. She has always been tall for her age. Starting last spring, she's begun to put on weight. She is 4'10 and weighs 95 pounds. While she does enjoy sweets, we allow only one sweet snack per day. If we do not restrict her intake (I tried this), she will eat sugary snacks nonstop. I tell her that sweets are ok in moderation, but too much is unhealthy. She does snack between meals, but it's usually fruit, yogurt, or cheese. She has always had a good appetite, and doesn't overeat at mealtimes. We haven't said anything to her about her weight, but some of her friends are saying she's fat. Should I be concerned?

--A Parent Soup member

Your worry is understandable, but you should consider where your daughter stands now. At age 9, she is on the verge of early adolescence when she will undergo an enormous growth spurt. From the ages of 10 to 15, the average child gains 12 inches in height and gains 20 to 30 pounds. At what age this change occurs varies, because not all adolescents begin their growth spurts at the same time. (We offer more information in our book, The Roller Coaster Years: Raising Your Child Through the Maddening Yet Magical Middle School Years. It's important for you to realize this, because that poochy, little tummy of hers may disappear as her body curves and elongates. Now is not the time to make final assessments on weight. In the meantime, your guidelines sound reasonable.

What child doesn't love sweets? Offer healthful choices. Above all, encourage her to become more active and take up some physical activity---walking, jogging, Tae Bo. Offer to do an activity with her. Don't suggest dieting. That only begets more problems with food, weight, and self-image. These are tough years and appearance anxiety is typical. Help her develop good lifelong habits and strong self-esteem will develop as well.

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