My teen daughter is piling on weight
Q: My 14-year-old daughter is piling on weight. She was never an overweight kid but in the past year has gone from less than 50kg to (I would estimate) well over 60 which is a lot for small-boned girl who’s just 160cm tall.
There’s no mystery as to what’s causing the weight gain. She hoovers up any food in the fridge and has given up all sports and now takes the bus instead of biking to school. Her favourite place to be is on the couch with her iPad and I’m always finding chocolate bar wrappers in her school bag and even under her bed.
If I ask her what’s going on she gets furious and accuses me of pressuring her to be skinny. I don’t want her to be skinny, just her normal healthy size. I can see she is miserable this way, she’s becoming less social and I’m very worried. A: You say there’s no mystery as to what’s causing your daughter’s weight gain and you’ve put it down to the chocolate bars, the way she ‘‘hoovers’’ food and her lack of exercise. But even by using a word such as ‘‘hoovers’’ you’ve made a judgment or a decision when there may be other factors at play.
If there’s a marked increase or decrease in a person’s weight, it’s best to check first that there’s no underlying health issue. Your daughter is 14 and a lot of hormonal activity is going on at that age. Your GP will be able to advise if your daughter’s BMI is in a healthy range for her age, and may also suggest you seek some guidance from a dietitian.
If there’s no physical issue, then the next thing to consider is her emotional wellbeing. If this is emotional eating, then something will be triggering her unhappiness. To find out what’s going on, your daughter needs to see and believe that your love is there, unconditionally – no matter what she eats or what she looks like. Any talk of getting ‘‘up off the couch’’ or ‘‘laying off the chocolate’’ will just reinforce the messages that she’s probably already getting from others at school.
Home should be your daughter’s safest place and gaining her trust is paramount to helping her. By listening to her carefully you will bolster her selfesteem.You say this situation has evolved over the year so don’t be impatient for it to resolve quickly.
Now for some practical advice…You can set up a healthy environment at home with plenty of suitable snacks, (foods such as nuts, fruit and chopped veges with hummus) and do some activities that involve walking and moving but avoid comments about it being ‘‘good for her’’. Preparing food together can be companionable and is often a nice time to chat.
But most of all, love this girl.
Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and written two novels for young adults including
As one of seven sisters, there aren’t many parenting problems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a question email life.style@fairfaxmedia. co.nz with Dear Mary-anne in the subject line.
Love your daughter. Don’t judge her for what she eats, advises Mary-anne.