Need Advice for Overweight Child
I have four children, and one is overweight. I've taken it in stride all for a few years, thinking as he ages he'll 'grow out of it'. He is now nearly 5yo and I'm becoming quite concerned. I'm looking for advice but don't know who to ask. Here's a little background. My son was adopted at the age of 10mo. He has always had an incredible appetite. He eats and eats and eats. He has grown in height from below the 50% to above the 97% in the first two years he was home. His weight has always been way above the curve (since 12 or 18mo I think). He was a late walker (19mo) and we thought that he would 'lean out' once he got more active. Nope. He is pretty active now but he much prefers to watch a video (which I limit). He does love to dance! I eat primal but my family does not. The only vegetable my son eats is broccoli, and he only eats one meat dish I cook (pork chops adobado). He loves fast food chicken nuggets but obviously we limit those. At home he eats pasta, beans and rice, mac and cheese, etc. Very, very typical preschooler fare. He does love fruit, any and all.
I don't know how to regulate what he eats without it becoming a control issue. I've been advised to not let him eat seconds of the main dish without eating a bowl of veggies. He didn't eat a single veggie for over a year when he was younger. Refused. He won't be eating a bowl of veggies for a looong time. But he DOES eat 3-4 pieces of broccoli whenever I make it so that is an improvement. I know I've been too 'gentle' in letting him refuse veggies but that goes with the whole adoption thing. Food is often a big issue for young adopted children and I didn't want to make it MORE of an issue. But now that he's almost 5yo I think he can accept some greater limits imposed by me. I just don't know which ones to impose! He really hates veggies and meat! Has since the first day we've had him!
Portion control is a big issue for him. He eats as much as I do, nearly every meal. He just insists he is hungry. It is hard to deny a child (especially a child who did not get what he needed food-wise as an infant!) when he says he is hungry. I've never had to limit what my children eat like this so it is uncharted territory for me.
If anyone has advice on how to proceed, I'd love to hear it.
Well, you'll probably get better advice from others, but I just wanted to note that it is possible he really IS hungry. If he's eating a lot of carbs, and not much on the veggie front, his body could be trying to get more nutrients into him by telling him to eat more.
Will he eat a smoothie? Can you make something with chocolate whey powder, coconut milk, sneak in some spinach (when blended they can't tell), things like that? It might be a good way to get some protein/fat into him in a fun, enjoyable way (like everybody has some shake, not just him.) Come to think about it... maybe changing EVERYBODY's eating... slowly, adding some things, so that it's not focused on him alone would probably be a better idea.
Mock-a foni? It's a homemade macaroni and cheese substitute using cauliflower. I fed it to my girlfriends (one who doesn't like cauliflower) and they all loved it. Again, fat and protein and some veggie but in a fun tasty way.
Homemade chicken nuggets, using fresh chicken and coconut flour/almond flour crust, cooked in coconut oil or ghee? A much healthier option than the store bought ones, and again protein/fat oriented.
My feeling is that if he gets less sugars/carbs and more fats he'll be less hungry. The trick is to find recipes/things he'll eat wthat fall into that category. And again, make it for everybody so it's not just him.
Does he eat eggs? (You say he hates meat, but eggs have amazing good protein in them as well). Egg custard with heavy whipping cream? Fritatas.... coconut flour pancakes... Coconut flour pumpkin muffins from the PB cookbook.... (it's mostly eggs with some pumpkin and coconut flour and spices. You can add nuts and/or cocoa nibs or chips too). Sweet potato with butter?
Just some thoughts off of the top of my head...
"Boy I got vision and the rest of the world is wearing bifocals" - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
I certainly do feel for your plight. From both sides. I was an overweight child and I have a daughter that I worried about for awhile as she is 100% in height and weight. I started eating primal when my daughter was 2 and my wife picked up on it soon after. My daughter was extremely pudgy at 2 and she was a hair over 30lbs IIRC. Needless to say I was concerned. She eats all kinds of vegetables, fruits, and meats simply because that is all we have in the house. She has slimmed down considerably in the past year. Friends and family have noticed. She still eats the occasional mac'n'cheese, bread, and other items that I despise but they are in the minority. It is a tough change to make but when it comes to health I will be extremely stubborn. Think of it as life and death. You have to when it is a loved one that is walking down the plank. Unfortunately I know portion control is a short term solution to a long term problem.
Take it from a former fat kid.
The reality is, with a five year old, you control most of the food that the child is exposed to. Have a wide variety of what *you* consider to be healthy food available for him to choose from, including those healthy choices that you know he already likes, such as broccoli and chicken (not processed food chicken nuggets).
If he is really hungry, of course he'll eventually eat, and you should not feel guilty because you're choosing to provide healthy food, rather than junk. You wouldn't feed him something labelled poison, no matter how much he wanted to eat it, yet it sounds like you're choosing to feed him food that you think is unhealthy. Why torture yourself and him? Given the background you've already described, do you really think he would choose to starve?
Last edited by liza; 09-27-2010 at 03:41 PM.
ingredient substitutions in favorite meals
phase out most bad stuff from the house
if you cook the meals, cook healthier options for the family. don't treat him differently because kids notice
also i'd say don't insist or expect him to eat everything on the plate the first time, let him poke around and act like you aren't paying attention. kids always come around to most foods, there will be exceptions. like onions, which were sent from hell to make my food taste gross
You might want to consider having your pediatrician refer you to a good pediatric endocrinologist. Obesity is a problem in my family, but my sister's daughter was gaining weight extremely rapidly despite a healthy diet--more than any member of our family. She was 11 at the time, and had never really liked desserts or any fast food junk. She just had an incredible appetite. My sister took her to a pediatric endocrinologist for a battery of tests, and it turned out that she is extremely insulin resistant.
She was Rx'd Metformin, but my sister was warned that it would only help if she also ate low carb (no more than 50g a day). However, the endo also said that most children cannot comply with dietary restrictions and that the child must willingly participate in the dietary plan. My niece would not comply, and now at age 18, she's fighting an incredible weight problem.
However, I think most of the fault was the way my sister handled it. She interpreted the endo as saying that the child had to be in total control, but I believe a child needs strong support from the parent. I know this because one of my friends had to support her child with diabetes, and her experience showed me that it IS possible for a child to take responsibility for his/her dietary needs.
One of my close friends has a daughter who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 6. The first thing the doctor told the mother is that the child had to learn to take responsibility for her own care; otherwise during the natural rebellious times in growing up, the child would use the illness against the parent by eating the wrong foods, not taking her meds, etc. So although my friend's instinct was to 'take care' of everything for her daughter, she learned to step back and let the doctor deal with the child directly, both of them emphasizing the vital nature of the child learning to take care of her diabetic needs. That child is a mature adult now, and my friend says that they got through adolescence with minimal problems with the diabetes mainly because the daughter always assumed responsibility for her care.
This is all by way of explanation that if your son is diagnosed with a problem related to his weight, your strong support and guidance can help him gain control of his weight, but it won't be easy. Of course, the fact that non-compliance for a diabetic child will result in death makes the weight issue seems trivial, but I think the same 'technique' can apply to weight--take the problem seriously and support the child in developing a plan for success.
i have a 6 yr old and a 5 yr old .. one a great eater in the sense of loves healthy food and one a great eater in the sense of loves all food...
we try very hard to limit the "crap quotient" = all snacks are fruit or nuts, all meals without exception have more vegetables than anything else, with no dessert until a good job is done on main, lots of seafood etc .. they get pasta prob twice a week and cereal for breakfast so we arent trying to be primal at all
The kids are not allowed juice or coke etc at all (ask a dentist about tooth destruction from sucking on OJ all day)
My point is you set the parameters for what they eat. Weve won almost every battle on the healthy dinner front by not caving to tantrums and sending them to bedroom if they wont eat. Occasionally they have no dinner but more often than not they clean their plates up happily....
Parenting is tough and we all have different approaches .. we are not even close to perfect but the kids eat what they are given, mostly, which is mostly healthy, and we save treats like icecream and chocolate for a once a week special treat...
The other side is our kidz are active. They arent allowed to watch more than a hr of TV a day. Otherwise they are outsode, taking the dog for a walk or amusing themsleves. No computer games etc. .... again keeps their brains and bodies busy which is surely better for weight than slothing in front of TV?
Just my two cents .. like i said its a tough gig but hopefully there is something useful in here ...
Good luck to you
Thanks so much for all the input. I KNOW I need to be more strict with what he eats, and once I figure out what that is I think I'll be able to be. My family isn't primal and so I make pasta for them. I don't like it but when I switched them to a mostly primal diet they hated it. Now we're in a good middle ground, but the little ones do get pasta when the rest of us are eating meat and veggies. I need to work on that. Minxxa, I think increasing the fat he eats is a good idea. And you gave great suggestions for things for him to try that I hadn't done yet. (He does drink green smoothies already, readily.) I used to do that 'hide the veggies in the mac and cheese trick but got tired of that. Neil, my family sounds quite a bit like yours. For drinks, we never have juice or soda in the house. He has one cup of almond milk in the morning and then water the rest of the day. My older children are allowed to drink milk but I don't want this one to have the calories. They don't watch more than an hour of screens a day. They often go a week without seeing anything, then a few days with maybe an hour a day. We don't have CW junk in the house to eat- hostess or whatnot. Just 'healthy' CW stuff and occasionally (once a month?) homemade muffins or cookies. 3 of my 4 kids do fine with this 'healthy CW diet' and have no problem with weight, but not this one. Mighty Al, we had taken him off all wheat and dairy for a while bc he was having digestive issues. No dairy for a month, no wheat for two weeks. That's a hard diet for a boy who only likes wheat and dairy! And he lost weight and looked good. Lived off of fake rice products, which I hated, and we didn't see it helping his tummy problems, so he eats both again, though I do limit the milk. I really, really don't want him to be a fat child and I know now is the time I need to make changes for him. Emmie, he is going for allergy testing next week, and to his well-child checkup in Dec. I think I'll talk to his dr then about an endocrinologist. I had taken him to the dr about 6 mo ago to be screened for diabetes. Besides his impressive appetite for food and drink and weight issue, he also has a distinct breath smell. My daughter hates it, I rather like it. My husband and the doctor don't think it smells notable at all. It is a Very sweet smell to me. They did a urine screen and it was normal. The blood glucose monitor wasn't working and the dr said he didn't suspect diabetes and sent me on my way. (It wasn't our regular doctor.)
Thanks so much for all these things to think about. I know I need a kick in the pants to make some changes for my family and it is good to hear the strong words. It gets tricky since my husband isn't on-board with primal, but he is slowly more accepting of it. You'd think after 13 years of parenting I wouldn't feel so clueless about what to feed the kids! (I should say we were vegetarian for 20 yrs before primal. The kids have grown up shunning meat so it is quite a leap for them to now start eating it because now it is healthy when before it wasn't.)
When dealing with children it takes 6-10 times of presenting them with a new item for them to be willing to try it, and then another 6-10 tries before they really LIKE it. He likes broccoli, so make it for him, along with a new veggie every other day.
Monday: chicken, broccoli, carrots
Tuesday: hot dog, broccoli, squash
Wed: beef, broccoli, carrots
Thursday: pasta, broccoli, squash
Friday: cheeseburger, broccoli, carrots
and so forth. Don't pressure him, just let him know how happy it would make you if he tried, but you will be happy if he just eats the foods you know he likes. Serve him 1-2 things that he will eat, so he is not missing out from not eating the stuff that is new.
Do you know how he was born? Did he or his mother receive antibiotics at birth, or did her receive them as a baby? If so it is very possible he needs intestinal support. If he is having gut issues then he most likely NEEDS to be primal for his health, so finding a way to do this for him will benefit everyone. 2-4 weeks is not long enough to see results from an elimination diet, it takes at least 6 weeks to get all milk protein out of the system.
You can do this. He can learn to like other foods, you just have to give them to him And don't make it into a power struggle, it will only make things worse.
You don't mention what his ethnic background is. Some people are a lot more insulin sensitive than others and for them, a higher carb diet is a recipe for hunger, weight gain, and eventual diabetes. Most kids love higher fat foods - slather butter on those veggies, put full fat whipping cream on a small amount of fruit, cook the chicken in coconut milk or oil, put BACON out for breakfast. When you get more fat and fewer carbs in the diet, you are less hungry. Don't worry about calories making him fat, its the CARBS.
Have you read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes? Essential reading for understanding obesity. People who are obese are literally starving - it is an internal starvation, insulin production locking the available energy away as fat stores that are inaccessible to the body. The key to normalizing weight and appetite is eating lower carb to reduce insulin production.
You can control what foods are available to him (that is your job) without controlling what and how much of it he eats. Just as you control his access to TV and computer time, you also control his access to foods that are not good for him.. For this child, it sounds like a high carb diet is decidedly very bad for him.
My mother had 4 picky eater children. Her rules for peace at the dinner table along with sanity in food preparation were simple - This is what is served for dinner. Nobody has to eat anything they don't like or don't want to eat. But no substitutions allowed. We were periodically encouraged to try foods (just one bite) we thought we didnt like. But there were no power struggles at the dinner table. somehow we managed to eat and grow and develop our palates without tears. We had no prepared foods, no fast food, no soda pop. We also respected that our mother was the family cook. She shopped, cooked, and served our food. We had no say in what was served to us, just in whether we wanted to eat it or not.