Help for an obese 10 year old girl

My 10 year old has always been on the heavier side,  but she is putting on weight rapidly and is starting to feel badly about herself.  Her older sisters are all slim and didn't seem to do anything different than she does-  same diet,  same activity level at her age...  She just seems to hold onto weight and is now considered "obese" medically.  It seems so unfair.  If anything, she eats healthier than the other kids-  she won't even have a soda (doesn't like carbonation) when the other kids are happy to indulge when the rare opportunity arises.  There is nothing medically wrong- and we are active, healthy people/ educated about nutrition (not eating processed foods, etc.) I am so bummed out to see her sit in the car at the beach and drape herself in large, heavy clothes on a hot day.  I don't know exactly what to do.  She already has a healthy lifestyle and is a great kid.  She is just big (and now getting sadder by the day).  I don't want to put on her some "diet track"  that is likely to fail and just make her feel worse.  I work in healthcare,  and I feel like a lot of people in my profession judge and blame heavy people.  Even her doctor seems to assume she overeats and doesn't exercise.  That isn't the case.  She plays soccer-  walks to school and jumps on the trampoline just like everyone else.  She doesn't have access to money/ food for secret snacking,  etc..  It just doesn't add up.  I loved the TV show Shrill - and wish there was more media out there with happy people of all sizes.  Shrill isn't age- appropriate...  I have happy, overweight friends whom she knows.   As an average weight person myself,  I feel so helpless. I need advice about how to help her feel good about herself.  Are there therapists locally who might be good in this situation?  Should I be starting some restrictive diet plan? 

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Has your daughter tried a high fat, low carb, low sugar diet? Many athletes have this diet to stay lean and fit.

Eating good fat (butter, cream, avocados, nuts, animal fat) satiates hunger, steadies blood sugar levels and is healthy. (Feeding her a satisfying fatty snack before soccer may help her reduce eating the unhelpful carb snack that well-meaning families bring.)

Getting enough sleep is also important as well. Sleeping on your side is better if snoring/apnea can be a possibility.

Absolutely don't do a restrictive diet plan, especially not for a kid who is still growing and needs a variety of nutrients. My daughter and several of her cousins all got heavy during middle school, and the weight balanced out as they grew taller and played high school sports. Oakland Children's Hospital should have nutritionists and I think a group weight clinic that you might want to call for advice.

I think your post is right-on and think you're on the right track. It sounds like your daughter is very vulnerable to developing an eating disorder right now based on the negative feedback she's getting, and I would not recommend a restrictive diet plan. Dieting can actually be very dangerous for young kids and adolescents, as you probably know. I hope that you get some very good, sensitive advice and would encourage you to be steady in your efforts right now and not overreactive. I think you need to find the right doctor, perhaps the right nutritionist, and perhaps the right therapist. We live in a very judging society that is not friendly to people living in larger bodies. There is an organization called the Body Positive in Berkeley that you might want to check out. You go mama!

You sound like a very wonderful and caring parent. You didn’t mention what the conversation you’re having with your daughter about this is. Is your daughter open to speaking to a therapist? My daughter suffers from major depressive disorder so I have a lot of experience interviewing therapists. If your daughter is agreeable to seeing a therapist about specific issues regarding her weight/self-image/??? you might want to begin interviewing therapists to find one that you determine may be a good fit for her. Best wishes for a positive outcome. 

You may want to have her pediatrician do some blood tests or further checking to see if something is unbalanced medically (thyroid, etc.). If that brings anything up, an endocrinologist can also help.

So sorry to hear.. it’s hard to be big in our culture - even though it’s more and more common. I would just keep telling her what u wrote here. She’s doing everything “right” in terms of health.. which means her body is right for her. Maybe also start talking about our cultural issues around women’s bodies and the focus on thinness.. and how it’s wrong of her doctor to assume she overeats or doesn’t exercise. Get her a little mad at the injustice! (This may work better when she’s a bit older).  Also see if u can get her older sisters to give her the same message. Ok and my last piece of advice - watch the movie Dumplin’.. it’s sweet! Good luck. 

I'm so sorry this is happening to you! I love that you watched Shrill - wasn't it fantastic? I thought of it immediately when you described her hiding at the beach. You're right that health care professionals don't give obese people proper treatment. I gained weight for reasons unrelated to diet and exercise and the difference in how I was treated was really eye-opening and heart-breaking. What about checking her thyroid? 

I was in your daughter's position almost exactly when I was her age (and younger), and was put on a diet by my well-meaning dad and step-mom, and I would really advise against that so early. I have had to work my entire adult life to develop a healthy relationship to my body and food. My feeling is that it's important for someone in her position to feel healthy and strong and good about herself as a human being. I would also keep in mind that weight issues often intensify in the pre-teen and adolescent years, so taking a long view seems especially important. Who knows how her body might change and grow as she gets older, and what seems way more important than short-term weight loss (which, as you mentioned, will likely be temporary) is for her to feel whole and to try to feel safe and happy in her body. I have no idea what kinds of things are available for kids this age, but I truly hope there is something. What came to mind (and I don't know if it would work for a 10-year-old), is this body-positive yoga studio: -- I wonder if the teacher might at least have some resources for your daughter?

Good luck! 

Hi again! I just remembered this article, which might be helpful if you haven't seen it:

I just wanted to write to sympathize with you and say you are not alone - in our case it's our tween son, who eats less than his trim older sibling but outweighs them by at least 50 pounds, it's just a different metabolism. I know it's harder with girls and body image, but our son also wears clothes to cover up in the warm weather and is very sensitive about his body despite no candy, no soda, healthy foods and exercise. It's hard knowing that people judge him when they have no idea, this culture is thin obsessed and sad. We are hoping he will grow up and even out, but in the meantime I just tell him how beautiful he is and hope for the best - I'll hope that for your beautiful girl too!

Hello caring mom:  I'm so sorry that your daughter and you are suffering. Your description of her covering up her body, sorta hiding, is vividly sad.

In all the testing, has her thyroid levels been checked (especially T3 free and T4 free)?  Most physicians look at the TSH level only.  Hypothyroid caused me to hang onto weight when I was a teenager-- It's unusual for a 10 year old to have a thyroid challenge, but perhaps it's something to look at. What about her hormone levels?   Have you explored working with a functional/integrative physician?   Your idea of having her go to a pyschologist  is wonderful.  Maybe there's something she needs to share with an unrelated, yet trustworthy, adult.  Have you asked her how she feels about the weight?  Ultimately, maybe she's open to working with you on an eating plan.  ---- May all go well for your daughter (and you).


I feel your pain & hers! My daughter went through the same thing. Eats fine, but always has a pot belly, and around that age her doctors kept bringing it up. As if she isn’t self conscious enough. Argh!!

It’s totally normal for a girl to bulk up before puberty or a growth spurt. So please please don’t put her on a diet & don’t let the doctors talk about her weight in front of her. 

For my daughter, I talk about how everyone has different body shapes, and it changes before/during/after puberty. So she shouldn’t worry about it. PAnd how everyone has to store fat somewhere - their tummy, their butt, their thighs - and your body will use it when it needs to. And how everyone (sadly) has parts of their body they dislike & want to hide but they should just enjoy their bodies and have fun! Some girls worry they’re too fat, others think they’re too skinny, they’re too flat or too busty, their ankles are too fat or too bony. But no one else notices these things. We can’t let these worries control us. 

It also helps to go out like to the mall or target and have my daughter look at all the real women around us. With all their lumps and bumps and imperfections — but all these women still are happy, wear cute clothes, have boyfriends and girlfriends, get married, have friends, etc! No one needs a ‘perfect’ body for a perfect life. Seeing real women really helps my daughter  to counteract the distorted images on tv, Instagram, ads, magazines of a single body shape (slender girls).