The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

pre-puberty, a special time to protect and nurture our kids

Posted by on Apr 7, 2011 in Blog Posts | 14 comments

Another study about obesity (really people, I can hardly stand my google alerts anymore, it’s so wearying.) Anyway, this one said :

Childhood obesity probably peaks between ages 7 and 11

Now, I read the synopsis, not the original article, but it follows a bunch of kids and finds, not surprisingly that the peak in overweight and obesity is 7-11, that coincides with the pre-pubertal growth spurt for many kids which most often begins with a weight gain, before height. I did not see that they followed how many of those children eventually fell back within the “normal” range or not. Now, that would have been interesting. (This makes me think of one picture of my brother in seventh grade, a little round, cherubic face, freckles, innocence. Three years later, tall and lanky like his Dad. I am thankful he never had the dieting demons foisted on him.)

I hear from so many readers and friends, that their first diet was in this age range, when they got a little round, or hips for the first time. They tell me they look back at photos of themselves, on the soccer team, and see no difference between themselves or their peers, maybe a few pounds… Concern from parents and health care professionals started that first diet, and they they relate (studies support this experience) feeling “huge” and embarrassed and dropping out of soccer or swimming, and beginning a decades-long cycle of dieting and weight gain.

It is normal for kids to experience weight gain around puberty. Some will slim down, others won’t so much. If they are fed well, loved, nurtured, given opportunity for fun and joyful movement they are more likely to be healthy and happy.

What do you think, science friends? Is this study telling us anything, other than just another headline to add to the hysteria? Did anyone read the full study?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Tumblr
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. cherylc

    My experience is similar to the ones posted, and I’m trying not to repeat it for my kids. But what I wanted to say is that there is an American Girl book on puberty that addresses this in a healthy way, and this pleased me very much. I recommend this book for explaining puberty to girls. (I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact title.)

    • katja

      So glad you are making things better for your children. it is an amazing motivator. I hope this blog will help with that! i will check out the American Girl book on puberty. It’s at our local Mall of America. :)

  2. Shaunta

    I can remember being in the third grade and looking at myself in the mirror and being mortified–just devastated–by my body. I wanted to be skinny, like my sisters and the popular girls in my class. Instead I was athletic–which felt fat to me. Even at 8. I am so protective of my kids’ body image–especially my daughters. If someone, anyone, had said to me that having broad shoulders was part of why I was a good swimmer or that having muscular legs gave me power when I ran–it would have made all the difference in the world. Instead, I got my step-mother who sat me down regularly to tell me that someday, if I wasn’t careful, I’d be fat like my mom. Nice, right?

    • katja

      not nice… I’m glad you shared the words that might have helped. My M is solid and healthy, and already being called “fat.” I think she liked when I showed her photos of me at her age with my little tummy in my tap outfit… She loves to swim, and I’m glad. It seems like a sport that is more supportive of different bodies.

  3. Samantha C

    yup – I was 11 when the doctor told me I had to start watching my weight.

    This post dovetails so well with that horrible Henrietta Sharp thing you posted about recently. The idea that we’re not only NOT teaching kids that puberty causes weight gain, but that we’re actively teaching them that a ten-year-old girl growing hips is getting fat, instead of turning into a woman, is just boggling.

    I’ve also come to see such a gender component into how this is treated. Maybe it’s different these days with so much focus on childhood obesity for all kids. But there’s the stereotype of the teenage boy who eats all the time, treated as totally normal for a kid going through a growth spurt. But teen girls in growth spurts begin to be labeled as fat.

    • katja

      Yes, I thought of that and wanted to link, but the basement guys were coming :)
      I think the gender issue is interesting. My friend, a middle school nurse says the weight-bullying among boys is out of control. I imagine it’s getting worse for girls, but all the “war” on obesity means boys are getting hurt too. I hate it all so much that my head hurts sometimes. it’s child abuse.

  4. Heidi

    Yes. I was seven or eight when my dad started warning me that I needed to watch how much I ate, or I’d end up like my Aunt C (the “fat” one in the family). I went on my first diet when I was eleven (incidentally the year I got my period for the first time and, probably, shot up height-wise).

    • katja

      Ugh. So sorry. I imagine, like many parents his motives were good, but so damaging! I know we parents want to do what is best, and it’s hard to know what is best in this cultural climate. Satter had a great family meals focus newsletter called, “when bad feeding is “good” parenting” (something like that.) You’re a “bad” parent if you aren’t jumping all over BMI and helping Timmy watch portions and pushing him to get “60 minutes of uninterrupted physical activity daily…”

  5. Betsy

    This makes me CRAZY! I have 4 boys and while none of them have hit puberty, they all grow out before they grow up. It’s just what their bodies naturally do. I notice that their faces are a bit fuller than usual or that their jeans seem a little tight and then a few weeks later the fullness is gone and their jeans are now too short. So I fully expect that when they are getting close to puberty and getting ready to grow a bunch in a short time that they will do the exact same thing, just on a bigger scale. And I’ve got pics of their uncles ready to show them that this is a completely normal phenomenon, that they aren’t freaks and that pretty darn soon they will be taller than me AND their dad.

    • katja

      it should make you crazy… I hope we can all turn this anger into activism. Write letters, talk to teachers who are spreading damaging “health” messages, tell your doctor, tell the school to stop measuring kids…

  6. wriggles

    Yep, my weight awareness started age 7 too. I worked out from the amount of times that age comes up in various matters among them weight, that there is some kind of pre-growth spurt hormonal release going on.

    Not only is the weight gain a shock (retrospectively) but changes in eating, that’s what caught me out. If I’d have just left well alone I might have avoided trouble, but I wanted to avoid becoming fat so quel horror show.

    • katja

      How could you have left well enough alone, when every cultural message, and those from beloved and respected adults (parents, teachers, doctors, first-ladies…) are telling children that fat is bad, wrong, unhealthy. I am sorry for all the readers leaving comments who were not protected and hope we can get this message out there…

  7. Anne

    I have nothing scientific to add, though my gut reaction is to think this is just one more way to shame parents into riding their kids about food/eating.

    I was one of those kids. I was a skinny child, my grandmother always had to tack in the waistband of any pants I had so they didn’t fall down. Then pre-puberty came along and I got round and chubby. And the mean girls started calling me Wonder Jelly (after the then current Vaseline commercial). Thus began over two decades of dieting and hating my body. Didn’t matter that I went from 4’11” to 5’6″ in less than a year and had I just let myself alone I would have been fine.

    That’s why “studies” like this make me sad – because a whole new generation of kids is going to be damaged by thinking a natural body process is wrong.