My question is about how to address weight, food and exercise with our daughter, who is nearly 15 and about to go into her freshman year of high school.
"Anna" is only about 5 feet tall (likely her final adult height) and is on the verge of being in the "heavy" category, if not already there. (She's about 125 lbs). Her best friends are twigs -- able to eat whatever they want, very athletic and fit. "Anna's" weight seems to be on an inexorable climb upward, given that when she's with her twiggy friends, she eats the world, just like they do. But she doesn't get nearly as much exercise, plus her metabolism is just much slower. Her activities consist of a couple of dance classes a week during the school year, downhill skiing in the winter, and softball in the spring. None of these are exactly aerobic. Anything aerobic she "hates" although she enjoys the little bit of tennis she plays in July. She has gained weight steadily for the past 3 years despite not getting any taller. I know this because I keep having to buy her new clothes due to the old ones becoming too tight.
We managed to get "Anna" through younger childhood without her becoming overweight, but that's when she was still growing and we could control her food. Now, I can't mention food or exercise without getting a strong, negative reaction from her. I get that this is normal, and that I should take pains to ensure her weight doesn't become a power struggle. But her weight is not under control, and I feel it's my responsibility as a loving parent to help her avoid getting to a point where weight becomes a real issue. Her dad and I model good eating and exercise habits, and don't keep junk in the house. We try hard not to harp on the subject. But none of this seems to really help.
Just to be clear, we do not allow TV on school nights, though she does end up watching about 1-2 hours in the afternoon after school. If I suggest she does something other than watch, she goes to the computer, or retreats to her room. There are no exercise/outdoor options that seem reasonable to suggest at her age, and we're at the point where it seems crazy to require her to do a certain sport.
I could use some ideas about how to inspire this strong, beautiful girl to take control of her fitness and her food choices. Thank you so much for any advice you can give.
From: MiddleMom, Chelmsford, MA
What you've done so far sounds right on, but I wonder: have you had an adult conversation with her? She's old enough (and presumably mature enough) to hear why you have gone to the efforts you have to keep her eating healthy and getting exercise. It sounds like you've never actually said, "You have a body type that has the potential to be heavy, and that worries us."
* Because she may shut you down in a conversation, consider writing her a letter. Here are some of the points you want to make:
* Being over-weight puts her at risk for health issues, especially high blood pressure and diabetes.
* Being over-weight puts her at risk for social and emotional problems, especially depression.
* You will always love her no matter what she weighs, but because you love her, you want her to be as healthy as possible.
* How she takes care of her body is her decision.
* You don't want to make her life miserable by constantly harping on this, but you want her to know that you are able and willing to help her if and when she wants help to get serious about keeping her weight healthy.
Putting this in a letter (on her pillow) is often easier for a teen to handle because she can read it over time, go back to it, and it's also a way for your love and caring to come through.
Once you've done this, do your research so you have ideas for how she can help help herself. Her doctor might be a good start. But other than that, you may need to just zip up and sit on your hands. It may take her months, if not years, to realize what you are trying to tell her. In the meantime, keep presenting a healthy role model, and keep healthy food in the house.
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