Should an 11-Year-Old Go on a Diet?

The mother of an 11-year-old asked CNN’s online nutrition expert whether it’s OK to put her active 11-year-old daughter on a diet. The daughter, who plays sports year round, is all for it.

That’s just weird.

The mother describes the daughter as muscular — “she only looks only about 20 pounds over.” And Mom’s ready to cut out sweetened drinks and white bread and sugary snacks. But is that enough, she wants to know? Is it too much?

The doctor doesn’t exactly tell the mom “no.” But I think she should. Let me explain:

The doctor tells the mom that, in addition to not allowing the processed grains and sugared up snacks, she should also limit TV time, up the fiber and add veggies, veggies, veggies to the girl’s meals. All those tips are fine — but here’s what I hate about how the mother and doctor are talking about the girl: (1) no one questions the basis on which the mother has declared the daughter 50 pounds overweight, and (2) they’re laying all the lifestyle changes at the girl’s feet. Rather than telling the mom to stop bringing sugary snacks and sweetened drinks into the house, they’re talking about limiting these things for the daughter only.

And you really don’t want to go calling out one person in the family for being fat.

Also? the year-round sports, let’s talk about that. I think it’s great that she’s in sports — it’s good to be active, sounds like the daughter enjoys it. But are these the kind of sports teams where a snack is served after practice? Does something resembling a meal get served after every game? I’m stunned at the volume (and lacking in quality) food and drinks that get passed around to very young children during out-of-school sports programs. I’ve heard it gets even worse as they get older. Even in my daughters’ parks and rec dance classes, the teacher hands out animal crackers at the end of each lesson. Oh and swim lessons this summer? The teacher gives out a dum-dum lollipop — for a half-hour of blowing bubbles and floating on backs!

These are sweet gestures and of course doing sports makes you work up an appetite. But I would certainly prefer to satiate my kids’ hunger with, oh, dinner. What’s wrong with a growling belly?

I asked my husband, who played all those sports as a kid, Pop Warner, Little League, etc., whether his mom had to sign up to bring snacks. Never. The teams went out for pizza at the end of the season. But after practice? After games? They had to suffer until dinnertime.

So about this supposedly 50 pounds overweight 11-year-old and whether she should go on a diet. Short answer is no. This isn’t the responsibility of the girl alone and starting her on a diet sets her apart from her family. If she’s truly that overweight, she’s eating too much on a daily basis and a lot of it at home or after sports. I wish the doctor would have suggested changing those environments — talk to the coach about dropping the snacks. No more money to go out for ice-cream after practice.

The only diet an 11-year-old should be on is three healthy meals a day that look just like what her parents and siblings are eating. A diet is a short-term fix that could have lasting negative consequences. Maintaining a healthy body is a long-term lifestyle adjustment.

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Article Posted 6 years Ago

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