Is 9 too early to diet?
December 22nd, 2010
10:29 AM ET

Is 9 too early to diet?

A profile on "Big Love" actress Ginnifer Goodwin (above) from our partner Health magazine brought some interesting perspective from readers.  The post from CNN's Marquee blog was one of the most popular stories Tuesday.

Goodwin told the magazine she started on Weight Watchers  at age 9.

“I really did go through a period when I was very little when I remember realizing that vegetables did not come out of the ground deep-fried,” she recalled.  “I changed my eating habits in fourth grade because I was a heavy little girl, and I was unhappy. And I remember my mom making dinner for me the first night that I was on this new program, and I burst out crying because the vegetables were green, and I thought she was trying to starve me to death.”

Many commented on the age that Goodwin started her weight-loss program. The comments have been edited for spelling and brevity.

Danika: She's been on Weight Watchers since she was 9? Does anybody wonder what the heck was wrong with her parents? Who puts a child on Weight Watchers?

Jean: Going on Weight Watchers at age 9 is not bad. If she was a chubby girl, this just gave her a chance to eat healthy food. When they set the target weight, it might end up being too low for you, but that can be changed as you progress in your weight loss. You are not forced to get that light.

You eat normal food from the grocery store, just not a lot of prepared foods. You do need to learn to cook and then think ahead and prepare the vegetables, meats and starches for your meals. It is not a diet, but a healthy way of eating. If you don't do well on the program, it just means that you are not willing to put in the effort to follow it.

Regina: My mom stuck me on diets at that age. ... I look back at pictures and realize I wasn't even a heavy kid! I had so many body issues because of all that nonsense. I'm a healthy, happy, size 16 and love every single glorious curve of me!

Leo: Have you seen some of the fat little kids running around this country?

I was fat when I was a kid. I ate too much. Plain and simple. ... I loved to eat. I wish my mother had reined me in and gotten me started on healthy eating right away. Instead, by the time I was 12, I was the fat kid in class. My face was bloated and round, my stomach stuck out, and I realized how bad it was.

So, at the age of 12, I started my own diet. I cut out sweets and junk food, and I started running. Nobody else told me to do it. But because I'd become so fat in the first place, I spent years with body image issues. If I'd learned portion control and healthy eating when I was younger, it would have been much, much better.

CNN health’s diet and fitness expert, Dr. Melina Jampolis, has tackled the question of what is an age-appropriate diet.

Here are some other stories dealing with the same topic: How to talk to tweens about healthy eating and When a parent's good intentions disparage obese children.

What is an appropriate age to start discussing weight-loss or obesity prevention with your child?

For Health's full interview with Goodwin, check back on CNN.com/health next week.

soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. Ammes

    She is fast on her way to an eating disorder. Hollywood is a silly place with silly people. An Obesity and Diabetes drug was revealed to have killed 2000 yesterday WAKE UP http://spirithappy.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/type-2-diabetes-diet-drug-killed-4-times-more-than-originally-reported/

    December 22, 2010 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lia

      I don't think this is extreme, it's much easier to lose weight as a child without going thr all that social stigma to follow. she probably only had to lose 10 as a kid, but if she just waited and gained until she was 16, she'd have to lose like 30lbs. so, if you're chubby, i don't care if you love every curve on you, if it's overweight, it's overweight. I would totally put my kid on weight watchers if they're fat.

      December 23, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse |
  2. Renee

    I have been on Weight Watchers for 4 years. It drives me crazy when people ask if I'm still on my "DIET". Its not a diet. Its a lifestyle change that focuses on healthy eating & basic exercise.

    December 22, 2010 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Squeak

      No Weight Watchers is being lazy. Why don't you let some one else make decisions on what is healthy for you to eat, how much, and when. Where is the personal responsibility? You don't need to PAY a company to eat healthy. You are able to do that on your own. I'm sure your local grocery store still has a produce department.

      Oh and yes, 9 is too early.

      December 22, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse |
    • John

      Diet is one of the most mis-used words in the English language. It simply means the food you eat daily, no matter what you eat. Everyone in the world has a diet. You could eat deep-fried pork smothered in greasy gravy every day – that's a diet. It's not a WEIGHT-LOSS diet. So by going on Weight-Watchers, you changed your diet. The answer to all inquiries is "YES I'm still on my diet and will be for life". Then make your point about a life-style change because everybody thinks the magic of "diet" will somehow fix all their problems. Somehow it has come to mean a temporary thing that you do for a few weeks – lettuce leaves and mineral water for three weeks and all your fat melts away. And a month later you're heavier than ever.

      December 22, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • VinoBianco

      Whatever you eat daily is a diet, including weight watchers. I think the program is for adults though. It is parent's responsibility to feed their kids healthy food, they shouldn't need weight watchers. Kids eat what parents buy at the store and what parents pack for lunch. It's that simple.

      December 22, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse |
    • Cary

      @Squeak – You obviously have no idea what Weight Watchers is, or what they do. A great many people in this country have to idea how to be healthy. WW is a place to go to learn and to get support from others who are where you are, or were and have had success in learning how to live a healthy life. I would urge you to do some research and educate yourself before you make assumptions and embarrass yourself any further.

      December 22, 2010 at 15:02 | Report abuse |
    • RUSH

      If its a lifestyle change, why do you still need to stick with Weight Watchers? Havent you learned how to eat properly yet? Still spending all that money just to be able to keep the fork in check doesnt sound like youve adapted to any new lifestyle.

      December 22, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      @Squeak – what exactly is lazy about Weight Watchers? I suppose if all you did was eat their frozen meals, I could see it, but, no one tells me anything except how many "points" I get a day. It's up to me to pick the fresh foods and meals to fit those points and to adjust them based upon how much exercise I get every day. I study the labels and nutritional information and figure out which foods are good calories and which are empty calories.

      Weight Watchers is what you put into it.

      December 22, 2010 at 17:04 | Report abuse |
  3. Hannah

    I think it's a bad idea to bring attention to the idea of fat versus thin and focus on it for children in elementary school, but that's the best way to make them focus on it. It might set them up for a lifetime of failure. However, you should always put an emphasis on healthy eating.

    December 22, 2010 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. chris

    Yeah, that's not a diet, that's just eating healthy food vs crap.... so no, in that case 9 is not too early to diet....in fact, start at birth...

    December 22, 2010 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Taylor

      Agreed, I would think 9 (and any young age) is a great time. Teach your kids to eat healthy as a child and its more likely to stick as an adult. It's easier to change your eating habits early on when you aren't the one buying the food and making the meals.

      December 22, 2010 at 14:33 | Report abuse |
    • KayDay

      I agree. When I was a chubby 3 or 4 year old, my pediatrician told my mom to put me on a "diet"–no more sugary drinks, only one cup of 100% juice per day, and only water or milk after that (and just generally healthy eating). When my doctor said "diet" she meant that I needed to limit the amount of sugar I ate in general and forever, not that I should do the cabbage soup diet for two weeks and then forget about it. I think that kind of "diet" is totally appropriate at any age.

      December 22, 2010 at 16:56 | Report abuse |
  5. lily

    Of course nine is not too early to start a healthy diet if you're overweight or unhealthy. It's not the age that's at issue, it's the health. In response to Regina, her mother shouldn't have done that to her. You should only do that to a kid if they're actually unhealthy; slightly chubby phases are a part of growing up.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. amy

    I wish my parents had done the same and taught me portion control when I was younger because I was teased all through school for being heavy and now at 23 I have gotten out of control in my eating and now put myself on a diet to loose 100 lbs. If a kid is heavy they need to.loose weight. I wish I had a long time ago.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • chris

      I'm rooting for you – I used to be the fat kid when I was younger.... It took a lot of work to lose the weight, but I lost about 50lbs.....but now all the comments about how skinny I am are annoying, so I'm thinking about going in reverse.....or maybe I'll try to gain muscle....who knows...

      But as one who cheated to run the 1 mile in gym class, and after cheating and skipping a couple laps got a 12 minute time... My wife and have already done a triathlon together, a few 5k's, a half marathon, and we plan on doing our first full marathon this May. I can easly run 9 minute miles without even trying, you can do it too 🙂

      December 22, 2010 at 14:56 | Report abuse |
    • chris

      and I say I lost 50lbs, but also in that time I grew from 5'2 to 6'3, so I weigh about 30lbs less now than I did in 8th grade at 5'2.....Just to give perspective....

      December 22, 2010 at 14:59 | Report abuse |
  7. Hoof Hearted

    All of you fatties out there need to follow her lead to a healthy lifestyle! You can do it!

    December 22, 2010 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RUSH

      just dont end up looking like some bobble-head doll as shown above

      December 22, 2010 at 15:32 | Report abuse |
  8. ALittleFluffy

    I think Weight Watchers is good for some people- it encourages them to perform- especially since they are paying for it. Although- I will say putting a 9 year old on Weight Watchers is a little silly. The mother should have just done a better job of... well being a mother. There was another article on CNN where they were talking about parents suing McD's over putting toys in the meals. The parents don't know how to tell the kids no- that's where the problem is. If a child is morbidly obese then yes, something needs to be done but otherwise a little elbow grease and change of parenting style will do the trick.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. abbyful

    Studies have shown a person's weight at puberty, it "sets" their weight for life. Not saying that it's impossible for them to lose weight, but overweight at puberty likely means an overweight adult. Normal weight at puberty likely means a normal weight adult. (Normal as in what body weight should be, not the new "normal" of overweight/obese.)

    The earilier kids can get into good eating habits the better. If she was ACTUALLY overweight, not just felt like she was overweight, I don't think a diet is a bad thing. But it should be focused on how to eat properly for health, not just about body size.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JAE1983

    Weight Watchers may be overkill for a 9-year-old, but if a child is obese, it's usually healthier to put them on a diet and exercise program than to let them grow into an obese adult.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tim

    It matters what you mean by diet.... Eat Right: Yes, 9 is OK. Fast or Starve: No. I am a male, and when I was 9, I weighed about 40 lbs, and I hated food, especially meat. I could wrap my waist between my thumbs and index fingers. Yes, that means an 8" waist. I could do 100 pull ups in a row, and run fast, so I seemed healthy. But a lot of my fitness accomplishments had to do with the fact that I had no weight to move around. Now, 30 years later, I am the shortest man I know. My brother has 6" on me. And I wonder how much I hurt myself by not eating right as a child.
    *** No child should ever starve themselves of nutrition ***

    December 22, 2010 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jeff

    Anorexic in the making...

    This little girl is in major major trouble. Somebody better intervene before she is dead at 15 years old.

    December 22, 2010 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • RUSH

      lmfao – im pretty sure she is 34. I thought I saw that in yesterday's article about her.

      December 22, 2010 at 15:34 | Report abuse |
    • HB

      The woman in the picture is 32. Not 9.

      December 22, 2010 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
    • NJchickinTX

      Read the original article again, Jeff.. She's not a kid.

      December 22, 2010 at 17:45 | Report abuse |
  13. Fridaynight

    It sounds like it was a family decision and they all went on Weight Watchers. If you think about it, no way a 9 year old is going to cook every meal for themselves, Ginnifer even talks about the first time her mom served her vegetables that were green and NOT fried – I doubt the mom cooked that only for the 9 year old and went on to fry her own food. Weight Watchers teaches healthy eating, portion control and self-discipline. It's been proven that people who have used weight watchers to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle are more likely to keep the fatty weight off and keep up with healthy eating vs. any other program out there. If I had a severely overweight 9 year old, you bet I would search out help for them and for myself. What child on earth wants to grow up being "the fat kid", no one! I had a 3 1/2 year old who was very round and one day the pediatrician told me, "you might want to change to skim milk instead of whole". I did it, and within the next year my little boy's BMI completely evened out and he no longer looked like a fat ball of butter. He was still -little kid chubby- but now is 9 and completely normal weight/size. I am so grateful the pediatrician mentioned something early on, before it became a battle. You can tell at 3 years old who's on their way to being obese and who's not. Nip it in the bud then, don't wait till their a teenager.

    December 22, 2010 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Keith

      weight watchers indicates that you are "watching your weight", which should not be on the mind of a child. They should just be fed healthy food and not think about weight. The focus should be on healthy habits not weight. If a kids is a few pounds heavy, then that's OK. They should just be eating right and playing outside like a kid.

      December 22, 2010 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
  14. Marlena

    9 is WAAAAY too young. I'll never forget being 12 and being forced by my weight-obsessed mother to go to Weight Watchers (looking back now, if they had left me alone I would have grown out of that "chubby" phase). When I got there, my 6th grade teacher (who I hated) was sitting there b/c she was a WW member. I don't know who looked more mortified–me or her. I didn't make it more than a week on WW then but my weight was a major topic of conversation for years to come until the day, at 27, I informed my mother that my weight up, down, or in between, was no longer a topic for conversation. Kids need to learn healthy food habits–of course. But diets are not the way.

    December 22, 2010 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. KC_in_CA

    Is nine too young to diet? YES.
    Is nine too young to have your parents help you change your lifestyle? NO.

    Diets don't work, regardless of age. Ask everyone who's tried one. You "diet" for a while, lose some or all of the weight you hoped to lose, go back to your pre-diet ways, and gain it all back. I'll repeat it again – diets don't work.

    Anyone who has lost weight and kept it off knows the trick – you have to change how you eat, what you eat, and how much you use your body. And it has to be a permanent change. Once you reach a weight you are OK witih, you don't go buy a pack of Twinkies to celebrate. You stick with the healthy changes for LIFE.

    Based on what is in this article, I'd say that Ginnifer Goodwin's parents should have taken a hard look at their family's lifestyle earlier. Nine-year-olds should be eating a few veggies that aren't deep-fried or coated in butter. If a young child is overweight then it is usually the parents' fault. Can you force your child to eat healthy foods? No. But you can refuse to buy garbage foods and you can refuse to cook a different meal for the child. No healthy child will starve herself to death. Put healthy food on the table and let the kid decide if she wants to eat it or if she wants to go hungry until the next meal.

    December 22, 2010 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MD

    I wish my parents had done something about my weight when I was young. I was perfectly healthy until they divorced and my mom started eating. Then I started eating. I didn't even know I was fat. And now, twenty years later, I am struggling to lose that weight. I know commenters will say "Just eat less and work out" but it's really not that easy when you were raised one way and try to live another. PS – Poor photo choice up there!

    December 22, 2010 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Keith

    9 is to young to diet, but not too young for a parent to teach their children healthy eating habits. I think think it is so sad to see over weight kids. Parents are not giving their child a fair chance at a healthy life. These overweight kids are not just unhealthy, but they are ridiculed by their peers which translates to a low self esteem which may translate to a underachieving adult.

    December 22, 2010 at 22:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. cspark

    Look at her. She is emaciated – a huge head wobbling on a stick-thin body. Weight Watchers at 9? The article never says how heavy she was. Most pre-pubescent girls are a little chubby, and that's exactly how they need to be as their bodies prepare for the changes that lie ahead.
    Of course its important to eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Should a 9-year-old be counting calories and view her body critically? Absolutely not.

    December 23, 2010 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Leigh Ann

    OMG, Ginnifer Goodwin is well on her way to dying of ANOREXIA. All probably because of her parents (and Hollywierd's) obsession that all girls should be skeletons (instead of just healthy). She looks like a lollipop- big head, skeleton body. Very scary, NOT healthy and not pretty. In addition to some nice healthy veggies and fruit, she ALSO needs a sandwich and a big glass of milk (with a multivitamin). She looks like a corpse.

    January 9, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Suzi Fratto

    Pot Jobs


    September 17, 2016 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply

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