weight issues in a child

posted 9 months ago in Parenting
Post # 32
95 posts
Worker bee

This is a tough one! I self-soothed with food as a child and my mom always made it about her and feeling like she failed as a parent because she had a chubby daughter. I had years of disordered eating. She did her best but ultimately I always felt (and still feel) that she loves me more when I’m thin (when I look “right” (her words)). Of course she also said it was about me being healthy but her focus was always about appearance and numbers and never about me, my unique body (ie I have now come to accept that I have a certain body type and certain natural parameters of what my body can look like without sacrificing function) and my feelings. I’m at a healthy weight now, and I focus a lot nutrition and not just numbers. All this to say that I think it’s good that you are concerned, but don’t just focus on the numbers. Remember underneath the chubby belly is a little boy who might be feeling scared or vulnerable and who wants to be healthy but might have already picked up some bad habits he picked up from a mom that has not been a constant presence in his life. How scary and confusing for him. Speak to a child nutritionist or doctor or therapist and get some input, and balance the message with love and acceptance. strength bee! 

Post # 33
540 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2018

I’d recommend continuing feeding him healthy while he’s in your care as well as getting him to be as active as possible so that he has a better metabolism. I saw you mentioned enrolling him in a Ninja-warrior class, that’s great! In addition to that I’d recommend getting him out to play as much as possible throughout the week. Since his mother seems to feed him a higher calorie diet, having him burn more calories through playing throughout the week should help him not gain as much weight

Post # 34
2289 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: October 2019 - Chateau Lake Louise

averyj :  In a situation like this, it helps to look for what has changed. From the time that you started to notice an increase in his weight, what is different?

Is he spending more time with mom? Does he have a new video game? Has he had more trouble socializing at school? 

If you can’t think of anything except the meds, there’s a good chance they’re the culprit. Just because a side effect is unusual or mild in “most” subjects doesn’t mean that is how your stepson is being effected. There are always outliers, and it’s possible he’s one.

I gained 30+ pounds in a matter of weeks when I started taking medication for a GI issue. It’s a known side effect, but even my doctor was surprised at the speed and magnitude of the gain. While it’s true my appetite had increased, NOTHING accounted for the amount and pace apart from the meds.

It’s also possible, that as he gets older, he might be developing an intolerance to dairy. Aside from causing stomach upset, it can also cause inflammation that presents as weight gain. I only mention it because 2 of the items you list as part of a typical lunch for him are cheese; If he’s eating a lot of dairy, it might be worth trying to limit that in his diet, and see if it makes a difference. 

I would start by doing a thorough mental inventory with FH – ask yourselves what might have changed recently that could be a trigger. Discuss your thoughts and concerns with the pediatrician, and if they aren’t concerned, try not to dwell on it.

If you do find it is the medication, it’s perfectly appropriate to discuss readjusting dosage or finding another drug that may not have the same kinds of side effects. Medication that causes weight gain over time can also cause a patient to develop type 2 diabetes, so it isn’t a trivial concern. 

Otherwise, make adjustments if appropriate, but don’t draw a ton of attention to it. The culture of shame around eating is insidious and mentally damaging; particularly for someone as young as he is. The less you make a big deal out of making better choices for all of you, the less likely he is to feel embarassed or ashamed that he has somehow brought this on himself.

Finally, I would leave bio-mom out of things for now. I would try to isolate all the factors in your control before attempting to address the issue with her. It may be she simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to do better, or might resent the suggesstion she isn’t doing a good job. If all other possibilities have been exhausted, I would say FH should ask her to speak to stepson’s pediatrician abou their concerns; that way it comes from a neutral professional who is trained to discuss these issues with potentially resistant parents. 

This is s tough one. We want to model good habits without making children feel bad about themselves if they don’t always do that. I wish you the best of luck. 

Post # 36
8944 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

averyj :  Another possibility is that kids tend to eat more and put on weight when they’re gearing up for a growth spurt. I saw this frequently in my own kids plus nephews, nieces, etc. A shorty gets a little rounder than usual, next thing you know they’re 3 inches taller and everything is proportionate again. I would continue eating healthy at your house and making sure he stays active, but otherwise wouldn’t worry too much unless his doctor becomes concerned.

Post # 37
398 posts
Helper bee

Could just be genetics in there somewhere. My mom was a pretty big girl then puberty hit and she was thin as a rail. One summer I lost probably 50+lbs from puberty and shot up like a weed. I didn’t really change anything or exercise alot. I went from obese to underweight in 2.5 months with no changes in diet or exercise. Just how my family works on my moms side. 

Fiance was the same way. Was the chunkiest little boy growing up then hit puberty and suddenly was a ripped, chiseled teen boy. Not a thing changed in his diet or activity around that time. If anything he was eating more food that was crappy.

Therefore… I am assuming the same will happen with our kids… chunky then thin and tall. 

Only advice I have, though, is to check with his doctor. But I wouldn’t worry about it much. I would just tell others to keep their comments to themselves. Kids see and hear that and it hurts.

Post # 38
221 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2019

ladyjane123 :  I so appreciate that you mentioned to never focus on the kid’s weight to his face!  Warms my heart, fiance and I have both struggled with weight issues (him overweight, me underweight) and we’ve talked extensively about how when we have kids, it will be all about having fun with sports and spending time with friends, and focusing on the nutrients food gives you rather than the calories.

To OP, I’m wondering if bio mom feeds him junk food out of convenience or cost, and if she’d be more willing to follow a meal plan if you prepped and packed healthy meals for the both of them to enjoy together?  If he comes over prepared with tupperware with healthy dinners, it’s a lot easier for her to say “let’s have this for dinner” while still being mindful of her schedule and budget.

Post # 39
8774 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper

mel2 :  

You know,  I  don’t think   OP was overly judgemental  at all, and certainly not panicky.  She came across as concerned and keen to do the right thing to me.  

Post # 40
4535 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: November 1999

averyj :  my sibling has 4 kids. They are all very close in age and eat the same food just in slightly smaller quantities due to age. Honestly one of her kids  eats a huge quantity and can still wear a size 3 t-shirt at 6. If this child gets sick my sibling worries because two days without much food consumption ends up with ribs showing through. One of the other kids got the same build as my grandfather and male cousins. His bone structure is tall with thicker bones. He has always worn clothes larger than his age bracket would indicate. He is prone to ending up with a tummy if he enjoys a bit too many fun foods for a few days.

My point is that with my nieces and nephews, they all eat the same food, do the same amount of activity and exercise  but their body metabolises it in different ways and distributes weight differently on all of them. Your stepson may just be more prone to carrying weight in his middle and is more sensitive to a change in eating habits for those ten days a month with he spends with his mother. His meds are probably contributing too.

Honestly, I’d not worry too much about it for the time being. He might be storing up for a growth spurt. My nephew who is prone to weight gain in the middle tends to grows out and then up. You are doing the right thing by way of food on your end. I’d just concentrate on increasing exercise and activity and maybe cooking lighter on the day before he goes to his mums house to counterbalance the high caloric intake he has there.

I’d also look into something like a martial arts activity a few times a week for him. My nieces and nephews all do martial arts and it’s very much about teaching respect, self discipline, routine and unlike other sport activities its less about winning and competing. It’s all about bettering technique at your own pace which might be beneficial for a child with anxiety and adhd. 

The other thing, if he’s eating other kids lunches maybe get him involved in the kitchen and make stuff together that is deceptively healthy and lots of fun to eat that makes his lunch look more attractive to eat than say the cookies from another kids lunch box. Also look into fun lunchboxes. I purchased a lunchbox container on the shape of a carrot from a site called Little bento World. It’s made especially for carrot sticks and hummus. My nieces and nephews love it and pretty much all take it everyday for crunch and sip at school. 

Post # 41
721 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: June 2007 - City, State

averyj :  when my daughter developed Celiac disease I saw a dramatic weight gain in her that started at age 5. She is now 10. I have celiac myself and only recognized what was happening with her because of my own symptoms. I myself gained 75 lbs rapidly. She is still overweight, thin legs, big belly, chubby face, but she looks almost swollen. It gets better when I limit her dairy. But I feel like the more I control what she eats, the more she thinks about food. I’m not talking calories, just food in general. 

75% of kids at diagnosis are overweight. Most people associate celiac with weight loss and failure to thrive but that’s not accurate.

She is also ADHD. She is not on meds, I control her symptoms through diet. Gluten, excess dairy, excess sugar, and artificial colors/flavors/preservatives are power players here. I almost never allow her to have artificial anything.

Unfortunately bio mom is majorly sabotaging her child. But unless you get together and implement and agree on a diet plan, nothing will change. You cannot change someone’s ideas about food unless they want to listen. The lunch you described that you pack I have packed the exact same lunch for my daughter. I’m an ingredient nazi.

Is he constipated at all?

Post # 42
223 posts
Helper bee

averyj :  Two things stand out.

One, “the doctor doesn’t seem to think it’s the issue.”

Two, “I also don’t want her to think it is how I am feeding him, since I am with him more than his bio. I know that is silly but it bothers me sometimes.”

So if the doctor – remembering that many doctors are overly concerned with weight – isn’t concerned, what are you worried about?

And I think it’s worth taking a serious look at why this bothers you. Do you have any beliefs/stereotypes about what it means to be fat? Do you have any food/weight/body images issues of your own that could be contributing to your feeling this way? (I’m not asking you to answer here, just giving examples of what to consider).

Post # 43
1075 posts
Bumble bee

 ilovelift :  FWIW I think.she meant the doctor doesnt think the meds are contributing. She didnt say the doctor wasnt concerned about the weight gain. Gaining a lot in a short amount of time is a bit concerning…? It doesn’t sound like it’s a matter of body types.


Post # 44
802 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2016 - Wedgewood Las Vegas

I don’t have any children yet, but I was my families ‘token fat kid’. I was pretty thin up until I was about 11 or 12, and then I gained a massive amount of weight over a year. 

Twenty years later I was diagnosed with a thyroid issue, which my endocrinologist believes I’ve been living with all my life. It is the likely cause of my sudden weight gain and hormonal imbalances. My doctor believes I may never have had a fully functional thyroid. 

Has his been checked out? He might be a bit young, but a lady had a child of similar age in a support group I had been in whose young child also had thyroid issues. If so, it can definitely affect his metabolism. 

However, please do not ‘force’ participating in sports on him. By ‘force’ I mean not allowing the kid to have a choice in it at all. This is what my family did to ‘solve’ my fat issue. All it did was build resentment, and never actually resulted in me losing weight. At one point I was forced into every single sport my school offered by my parents, whether I enjoyed it or not. It wasn’t fun. I was then taunted and called a quitter in high school when I finally had the balls to quit the sports I didn’t like. 

I would definitely encourage joining whatever he is interested in. The martial arts thing the OP mentioned sounds fun, and it sounds like the kid has an interest in it. Family walks, games, biking, hiking, etc, are also a lot of fun.  

PS. Not intending to make it sound like the OP was ‘forcing’ sports on the kid. Just wanted to add my experience that forcing sports is not helpful. 

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