Weight Loss for Eight-Year-Old?

My son -- who just celebrated his eighth birthday in September -- weighs 100 pounds. The doctor has suggested that he try to lower his weight through diet and exercise. I agree with the doctor, the problem is I don't want him to start sneaking food that is undesirable. I have talked with him and told him that this adjustment does not mean he cannot eat, only that he must make better choices. If you have any suggestions for me on how to handle this I would appreciate it.

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

You are very wise to the difficulties in helping a child lose weight. As you seem to be aware, you have a behavioral/psychological as well as a medical challenge. My first suggestion to you is to get yourself a copy of the book How to Get Your Kid to Eat...But Not Too Much, by Ellyn Satter. The chapter on "Helping All You Can to Keep Your Child From Being Fat” has some very helpful advice.

My second piece of advice is to get some outside help, as from a pediatric dietitian, who can be an objective third party to help you son, to help him keep track of his progress, and to help you both become educated as to the best foods and portions for him. He may find it fun to work with someone on the computer, tracking his food intake, making pie charts and graphs and seeing how he is doing compared to the goals he has set.

The third and final piece of advice is to take very seriously the exercise part of the equation. People who 'diet' without exercise invariably gain back the weight. People who exercise only to lose weight, lose less, but keep it off. Now is a great time to encourage an active lifestyle. Moving around more will increase his metabolism, making it easier to burn calories. Not only that, it will improve muscle tone, and help his self image. Get him involved in fun things like local recreational soccer clubs, swim teams, and basketball. Biking and hiking with the family are other fun ways to get exercise. Limit TV time, since even reading burns more calories than watching TV! Any other alternate activity, save sleeping, will have the same effect.

Better not use the word diet, since diet implies something you go 'on' and eventually go 'off'. A change in eating for life is what you are after. It will have to include the whole family, but surely that is a healthy thing as well.

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