Q: I have been worried about Alisyn’s weight for about a year now. She is steadily gaining and has a belly that sticks out. I know belly fat is super bad and for her to have it at only 12 years old really scares me. I took her and Austin to the gym for their fitness evaluation and was a little shocked by how much she weighs. She is 152 and about 5’3. I know it’s a delicate subject but haven’t really known what to say to her. If she asks for a snack that’s unhealthy I just tell her no, to pick a healthier snack. I also try to keep junk food out of the house. I honestly think Alisyn is happy with herself, she doesn’t seem to think she is “fat” or anything. I just worry about her health. Am I doing the right thing?
Kathie Jacobson: It is wonderful that Alisyn seems to feel good about herself, so not discussing weight, unless she brings it up, is a good strategy. At her age, stopping weight gain is a good goal for now. She is likely to experience a growth spurt soon and if she holds her weight steady, she may well grow into it. And you are already doing the right thing by expressing your concern in terms of healthy eating and living, not weight.
Using the CDC’s BMI calculator for kids and teens, Alisyn’s BMI is 27, placing her in the 96th percentile for girls her age. Alisyn may be obese depending on her body type, and given the health-related problems associated with obesity you should consider bringing this up with her pediatrician at her next wellness check-up.
You are thinking very clearly about the issues. Given Alisyn’s age, you still have some control over her food environment and it sounds like you are trying in this area.
I know it’s hard to do, but ridding your home of high-calorie, low nutritional value food will benefit everyone in your home and likely will force Allyson to choose healthier snacks.
When you cook, keep an eye on portion sizes (try not to cook too much, or dish up plates and keep the extra food on the stove, or put it away), work to reduce the amount of fat used in cooking or added for flavor, and always serve a vegetable and/or a fruit with meals. These are little tricks that can make a big difference.
Getting active as a family is also a great goal. If getting to the gym is too hard, you might invest in a Wii or Xbox Kinect and some of the active games to go with them. Then you could invest a half hour a day playing active games without spending the time driving to and from the gym. And often these games are so fun that everyone forgets that it is exercise. To peak interest, plan out a family tournament or keep a tally of who wins and post it on the fridge.
There is some great information on Fitsmi to get you started — check out:
Plus many tween and teen-friendly recipes in our Dish It Up section.