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children

8/17 9:21:00

Question
A little background..... I am currently overweight myself. I need to lose about 30 pounds. My husband has been overweight since very early childhood. He is only about 35 pounds overweight now, but only because he works extremely hard to keep the weight off. Genetics plays a huge role in his obesity. His entire family is morbidly obese, and can't seem to keep weight off. They all have a very strong appetite. They just don't get that "full" feeling like normal folks. My 3 year old has obviously inherited this gene (or whatever it is).

From birth my daughter has eaten a tremendous amount. We never thought much of it until she became a really big baby. Then as a toddler, she was constantly asking for food and eating adult size portions. After looking at my husband's family and doing some research, I realized my daughter had the same problem as them (did not get full as quickly as other people). We started limiting her portions (which were still pretty large portions) and only fed her healthy foods. (we also lead by example). Our pediatrician tested her blood for all sorts of stuff, and all bloodwork came back normal. She simply inherited my husband's (and his family's) appetite.

We know she will have to battle weight her entire life, as my husband has, so we feed her healthy food (no juice, etc). We also feed her on a schedule (3 meals with an afternoon snack). Trust me, the kid is not underfed. She still gets large portions because I know it takes alot to fill her up. Most people cannot believe how much she eats. We have tested her several times to see if she will actually stop eating, and she doesn't. I feel so sorry for her, because it must be horrible to feel hungry even though you just ate. But if I let her eat as much as she wants, she will be overweight and she also will eat until her tummy hurts. I hate cutting her off. I feel like a horrible mother. She is ALWAYS asking for her next meal. If I take her to a playdate, she focuses on the food at the playdate. She is happiest when she is eating. She is a little overweight (not much). If we let her eat as much as she wanted, she would certainly be obese. Plus, we try to play alot with her to give her exercise. She was an overweight baby, but through our efforts she has slimmed down. The pediatrician is not much help.

My worry is that we might be making her more obsessed with food by not letting her eat as much as she wants. Often she cries and throws fits for food and my husband will put her in "time out" because she is so out of control. Again, she is not underfed at all. She eats about 5 times as much as other kids her age (who usually don't eat at all!) So please don't think we are starving her. This whole situation is killing me, I hate not giving in and letting her eat and eat. But I also don't want her to become MORE obsessed or get an eating disorder. I can only control her food for so long, once she starts school, she will find a way to eat junk and as much as she wants. By the way, when we go to parties and such, we let her eat pizza or cake, etc, I don't want her to feel singled out.

My questions are this: What am I doing right or wrong? I don't want her to gain weight as a child and get childhood diabetes or get teased by other kids. Most of the people in my husband's family are 100 or more pounds overweight. My mother in law is about 500 pounds. My daughter's appetite seems to be just like hers. What do I do to make sure she is healthy and happy, but not making her more obsessed with food? Could I be giving her a "hoarding complex" by not letting her eat as much as she wants? I rarely give seconds but her first helpings are already larger than most kids by far. She always begs for more food, but it never ends, it is never enough.  

Answer
Dear Michelle, you have a lot of valid and good questions.  There are a lack of studies on kids and eating behavior, so you will only get opinions as to what to do. What I can tell you is yes, your daughter has a 75% chance of being overweight because you and your husband are. Some overweight kids are overweight because they watch and learn the eating patterns of the overweight adults, so beware.
Her eating pattern sounds like she is sensitive to carbohydrate foods, again that is my opinion. Kids who overeat foods are trying to satisfy cravings. Some kids will eat for comfort because when the craving is satisfied, even for a short time, they feel comfort. What I suggest is you survey the cabinets and fridge for carbohydrate foods that could be the cause. Don't worry about nutrients, because the human body can produce carbohydrates for energy from the fat and protein they eat. Those foods (protein and fats) cause less cravings and satisfy more. Kids do need carbohydrates for their energy needs, so don't cut them out all together, just limit the type to all high fiber brands.
Examples are: instead of juice, feed whole fiber rich fruit. Instead of white bread, pasta, and rice, feed whole grain types of these foods. At three, she can drink low fat milk. Serve her at least three cups a day along with 3-4 glasses of water. Every meal should contain some protein. Breakfast could be a egg and whole wheat toast or a higher protein fiber rich cereal. Mid morning snack could be a whole fruit. Lunch-tuna sandwich or vegetable beef soup. Afternoon snack-small cut up vegetables with low fat dip. Dinner should be any meat, fish, chicken with a lot of vegetables.
Cakes,cookies,ice cream are for special occasions only.
It will take a few days of complaining on her part, just ignore it and instead offer some exercise like play time at the park, or just a walk. She needs exercise, exercise, exercise. Keep a food journal of everything she eats. If you still have questions, ask her doctor for a dietician or a nutritionist consultation. Good luck, and I hope I have helped. Laura Kraemer,Slimkids.com  
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