Judo, Dieting, Weight loss, Weight management and Children in Judo.

In this post I’d like to talk about weight management, weight loss, the methods used to do this and how this relates to your child’s involvement in Judo. This post extends on the prior post I wrote on JudoCoach.com on the same topic, but rather than a coaching perspective I want to discuss it from a parents perspective.

Let me start by stating that any pressure on children to lose weight should be actively avoided unless a medical doctor has been involved in that decision.

Your healthy child should not be encouraged by any coach (or club member) to starve themselves to lose weight. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by dehydrating themselves. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by “sweating it off”. They should never be encouraged to lose weight by using dieuretics.

There are a large number of “never”s in that last paragraph and I mean them all. The problem we have in Judo is that we compete in weight classes. There is scientific evidence that suggests that this puts our young Judo players at risk of eating disorders.

A study from 2007 entitled “Eating Attitudes, Body Esteem, Perfectionism and Anxiety of Judo Athletes and Nonathletes” in the International Journal of Sports Medicine sadly identified that the coach and club members are the primary sources of pressure on athletes to lose weight. This is a dreadful finding and something that you as a parent need to keep in mind.

If you ever detect pressures being placed on your healthy child to lose (or manage) their weight, then you should immediately address this with the club coach, or another official of the club (for example the child protection officer).

Eating disorders are a very scary illness, they have very serious health issues that you really don’t want your child to suffer from (check the references on my original post for more information). Even children who are not underweight can suffer from health issues if they lose weight rapidly, especially if they use dieting, dehydration, etc.

You, as the parent can help by ensuring that your child eats healthily. You can help also by ensuring that your child’s weight goes up steadily as would be appropriate based on normal developmental stages. Unless your child has been overweight, your child’s weight should NEVER decrease. This also means that your child should no be dropping weight classes, they should only ever go up, not down.

You might want to discuss your child’s involvement in Judo with your GP, there may be some value in discussing what your child’s expected final height and weight will be. Discuss perhaps what growth spurts are expected and when and what growth you might expect. It is worth looking at this with relation also to the developmental phases children go through (Long Term Player Development). This might help you and the club coach plan your child’s weight category progression.

Finally, I’d like to repeat once more, that your child should NEVER be encouraged to lose weight, diet, etc by the club coach. If your child is being encouraged to lose weight it should ONLY be from a medical doctor.

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This entry was posted by LanceW on Monday, May 4th, 2009 at 9:16 pm and is filed under Judo . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 Comments

  1. Tracey says:

    Hi Lance. My 7 year old daughter is just about to enrol in Judo classes after thoroughly enjoying a 5 week taster course that was run at her school! I have become aware that competitions etc are based on weight as you say. My daughter is very tall for her age and quite “chunky”. Is this likely to be a hinderance rather than a help for her? Do u think that she may be put under pressure regarding her weight?
    Tracey

  2. LanceW says:

    Hi Tracey,
    It is very early on for you or your daughter to be thinking about competitions and “making weight”.
    She needs to grow up before we worry about her weight, that is assuming she has a healthy body weight to height ratio. You family doctor can answer that better than me.

    As for height beinga hinderance, I don’t think so. Long levers (arms and legs) can be a good thing. Again, once she has finished growing you and the Judo coach will have a better idea of how things are going to work. 🙂

    She should NOT be put under any pressure to lose weight (again assuming here she is a healthy weight). It is not the Judo coaches position to be telling you or your daughter what the right weight for her is. They have an opinion and often experience… BUT, healthy weight is a matter for doctors not coaches. Coaches should not put pressure on an athlete to lose weight, especially a seven year old. I would hope this is not th case in the club you are sending her to.

    Hope this helps,

    Lance

  3. Jonny says:

    What about competitions, where there is pressure to do well, and many of the kids are crash dieting a week or two before to fight in a lower weight group to get advantages?

  4. LanceW says:

    Hi Jonny,
    what you describe “crash dieting” is precisely what should be avoided.
    This sort of pathological eating behavior is very bad for the child and bad in both short-term and long-term. Crash dieting, especially when coupled with dehydrating depletes glycogen energy stores in the muscles for example of a short term problem. Dehydration is also shown to decrease performance. Starving and dehydration is also shown I understand to increase risk of injury.
    In the longer term the development of eating disorders is of great concern, the behaviours associated with “making weight” are only a hair breadth from anorexia and other eating disorders and yes could lead down that incredibly dangerous path!
    In my other post on the subject (linked from this site) I also spoke about the danger of a seemingly innocent action from a coach suggesting weighht loss is ok can lead to eating disorders and the fatal conditions that can arise.
    As for “advantages” of being in a lighter weight, I have not seen any actual evidence other than anecdotes, received wisdom and rumour that there are any advantages, especially children. You need to consider the performance decreases, injury rate increases against any perceived advantage. It for me at least is not a real advantage in a long career. Making weight in children is not worth it for the long term athlete.

    In summary, yes even in the context of competitions children should not be crash dieting to get so called advantages.

    Thanks for the comment, I think the “what about for competition” question is a good one and I hope that my reply expresses how strongly I disagree with the idea of children crash dieting in ANY situation. The only time a child should be encouraged to lose weight is if a doctor recommends it. And I include the case of an obese child, I would encourage exercise and a more active lifestyle, but as a Judo coach, it is not my place to tell children to lose weight… ever.

    Thanks for visiting the blog and leaving a comment, it is really appreciated.

    Lance

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