This article on adolescent pre-puberty weight gain is part of a series on teenage nutrition. You can read the beginning articles in the series here: “What Is On Your Family’s Breakfast Plate” and “Teenage Nutrition: Why You Should Pick This Battle For Your Adolescent.” We are very excited to bring you this and hope you feel comfortable to add your own thoughts, tips and suggestions. If you want to read more on teenage and general nutrition, please subscribe here to our newsletter and article updates.
Preteen and teenage weight gain: what can you expect?
During the preteen and teenage stages there are significant physical changes, including increased weight gain to help support height and physical growth. Some statistics:
- Children gain on average between 30-40 pounds (13.5-18.0 kilograms) between age 11-14.
- A child can gain 20 pounds (9 kilograms) or more in one year.
- Girls gain weight first as a layer of fat all over the body and then more around breast, hip and thighs.
- Girls appear “fat” before curves appear.
- To support large increases in height and weight your preteen and teenager will be hungrier, will eat more and need to sleep more.
- Weight gain during puberty accounts for about half of their adult ideal weight.
Weight gain in teens in normal and supports large growth period
It can be a concern to see your preteen or young teenager blossom in places, particularly when they have always been a lean child. Their weight gain is part of a transformation in physical growth and supports your teen’s increase in height. As an adolescent’s growth velocity (speed) increases, they physically begin to thin out and the weight gain is adjusted on their bodies.
Statistics on teenage height growth patterns:
- The beginning of growth velocity is approximately 9 years old for girls and 11 years old for boys.
- The growth spurt lasts 2-3 years.
- Growth in height and weight occurs 1 1/2 to 2 years earlier for girls than boys.
- On average, the peak in height growth is 11.5 years for girls and 13.5 years for boys.
If your teenage growth pattern is normal, why parents shouldn’t worry about weight gain during preteen and early teen years:
If your child suddenly gains more weight than you have seen them carry before, do not begin to panic. Normally, a larger weight gain is part of natural growth during preteen and early teen years. Worrying parents, in particular mothers with their daughters, can put unnecessary pressure on their teenager’s eating habits.
These are typical reactions from concerned parents who are worrying about their teen’s weight:
- Talking to your teen too much about their eating habits
- Encouraging them to eat less
- Making comments such as “do you really need to eat this?” or “you are getting a little hefty”
- Using food as a reward or bribe
- Having your child weigh themselves on a regular basis
These comments and actions can be damaging to a teenager’s self esteem, hurting their perception of their body and weight image and can lead to more eating problems.
The critical reasons we need to be careful with the weight and body image words we say to our kids:
- Leading to Eating disorders
- Body image disorders
- Self confidence issues
- Teenage girls feel pressure to live up to Barbie doll and media images of thin women
With an estimated half a million teens in America with eating disorders, we need to be aware that the comments and looks we give to our kids and their eating habits and body image can have long-lasting effects.
Is there a time when we should be concerned with a teenager’s weight issues?
There are two times: if a teenager loses or gains a significant amount of weight during a short period of time. If a child is overweight or obese before puberty, education on healthy eating is a critical part of a teen having a successful body image. A child should never be put on a diet, but support for teen on good food choices and physical activity can help a child potentially make their ideal weight during teenage years. If your teenager gains a lot of weight during their preteen or teen growth period but does not thin out or stay weight stable, this is a signal that they may have a potential overweight issue. If at the end of your teen’s growth period, approximately 13-14 years old for girls, and 15-16 years old for boys, your child is overweight, it is best to seek a health professional’s advice on getting your teen on track with a healthier weight.
Here are some articles published from this series on teenage nutrition. Feel free to click on the links here:
Teenagers and Energy Drinks, Teens and Endocrine Disruptors, Teens and Eating Disorders, Healthy Breakfast Ideas for Teens, Teens and Caffeine, Importance of Good Nutrition in Teens, Vitamin and Mineral Supplements in Teens,Vegetarianism in Teens. and Hormone Changes in Teens Affect Their Smell.
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Wishing you success with your teen. If you have any questions please leave some feedback in the comment section or via email at : firstname.lastname@example.org
Statistics for this article were taken from Adolescent Health Curriculum.