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“Help, I’m worried about my teen’s weight and want to help her… without making her feel bad.”



Q: “Dear Villagers

I have a beautiful, tall 13yo daughter who has gained weight in the last year or 2 for various reasons, some of those being (I think): puberty/hormonal, chooses carbs and sugar over all else if she possibly can. She’s not very sporty but is forced to do a sport which she does begrudgingly. If she could she would be on her device 24/7. My husband is getting more and more concerned as he doesn’t want her to be a fat teenager for her own sake. I’m very conscious of never mentioning the word fat/weight, and try talk about health rather, but that doesn’t seem to be working. I do believe that I have been enabling her unhealthy eating to some extent, as I allow her some unhealthy options more than I should. We are not talking hectic convenient food or take out, and I try with only sparkling water with school lunch instead of juice etc. We have tried whole-wheat bread, a higher fiber diet etc, but she won’t eat it. The thing is I don’t know how to bring up the subject with her being cognizant of the issues this can potentially cause. Any advice on how to guide her. I see so many of her classmates with beautiful slim figures running around in crop tops and my heart goes out to my beautiful child. I truly think an improved diet combined with the sport and exercise she already does would make the world of difference and also lift her mood, but it’s such a tricky thing to address with young girls.”


A: ” I’ve found that the only way to create a change in eating habits but not make an issue of it for your daughter is to implement the changes for the whole family. So for example, stop bringing juice or cold drinks into your home. Only drinking water at home reduces sugar intake dramatically. Also keep healthy snacks around all the time – celery sticks, cut up pieces of fruit instead of sugar etc. And make low carb, healthy meals for everyone. By setting the example at home and only offering healthy options she will learn by example. If she questions it, explain that eating healthy foods is a family value – we all want strong, healthy bodies, strong teeth etc.”

” Can mom possibly suggest that the family starts to eat healthier?Try not to buy high energy foods with little nutrient benefit. Sometimes it is just adjusting the food one eats. If energy input from food is higher than energy output, one does pick up weight. Encourage protein over carbohydrates.”

” My daughters had just turned 13. We were all overweight and had revolting eating habits. I made the decision to change my own eating habits and informed my husband first and when he agreed to join me we told our daughters together. We never told them they had to join us but after the first week they both saw we had lost weigh and frankly the food was delicious so they decided themselves to join us. 5 years now and they still won’t eat grains or sugar. My point is that I think leading by example is literally the only way to go, especially with teens.”

” Focus all your attention on everything you love about her. Teach her to dress with style and live with confidence. Please don’t support the teen goals of looking perfect in a crop top.
It’s my 30 year reunion this year and my biggest realization looking through all the photos everyone is sharing is “I wasn’t THAT fat”. I sure didn’t look like the first team hockey players or the SA schools swimmers- but I wasn’t as bad as I thought I was. Or that I was led to believe. Now it doesn’t even matter.
Body confidence is way more important than body size. I don’t have the answers for this- still dealing with my own issues- but I know it starts with not making any comparisons.”

” Last year, my then 13 year boy , was very overweight and was feeling very uncomfortable. Other people in his class had commented on his weight ….long story short. He came one day and said that someone had made a comment and he thinks they were right…so I took him to Weighless, I told him to hear what they had to say and if he wanted to join I would help him. But that I loved him as he was, but if was feeling uncomfortable then he could change it. He had the power to change it. So we went and he joined.. this week he reached his goal weight,and has gained much confidence and knowledge about health eating. He feels empowered! I feel we have helped him without shaming him.”

” Have you checked her vitB levels and iron? A shortage in those will lead one to naturally choose breads (for the yeast content) and sugary foods/drinks.”

” Well done to this parent for knowing that a teen’s body can be a sensitive issue and for not having made a fuss about it. The question, before any action should be taken here is: how does the daughter feel about her body? I hear that Dad is worried about her weight, I hear that Mom sees the slim friends in their crop tops. This is totally understandable, as of course we are taught that weight is associated with health issues (hmm, not ALWAYS true, but that is another story), and society has taught us that people get teased and weight shamed. However, if Daughter feels good in her body, I would suggest doing nothing other than continuing to provide whole, healthy foods as much as possible, not demonizing any foods (ie carbs), setting a great example with being active (note: this does not mean anyone need to be doing punishing exercise), and checking what judgements about other people’s bodies are voiced aloud. Teens do go through hormonal changes, growth spurts, grow sideways sometimes before the shoot up, get into convenient/junk foods. This is all normal. Keep setting a good example and don’t make a thing of it. If SHE expresses a desire to make a change, I would advise against any kind of “diet”, as these can have long-term effects and breed chronic dieting. Rather then let her talk to someone about things like why she makes certain dietary choices, such as what are sugary foods associated with for her (eg pleasure – in which case where else in her life is she lacking pleasure)… I could go on.”

” I know that this is difficult, having been this teen myself. Everytime some “kind” adult made a “helpful” comment about my weight, I wanted to scream at them: ” Do you think I don’t know that it would be better for me to lose “just a bit of weight?!” ” Don’t you think I’m ALREADY telling myself how much more fun I’d have if I was ” more healthy?!” and worse, much more cruel things. ( Looking in the mirror and saying “I hate you. You’re fat. I understand why boys don’t want you.” Everything you adults can say to teens – that teen is saying to themselves. And, oh boy. I knew the code – “unhealthy,” means “fat.” “Curvy” means “fat.” “Lazy” means “fat.” Don’t think you can be “sensitive,” about this!  The only thing that I can suggest is to change the way the whole family eats and spends its time. Funnily enough, even if you are “thin,” you might still be enabling your kids by not setting an example. ( Maybe you too are eating unhealthily, keeping rubbish in the house, buying your teen fattening food, making excuses, lying on your bed binge-watching Netflix … drinking too much? First … look to yourself.”

” Sometimes candida takes over your brain and demands excess sugars. Use the whole range of probiotics to supplement as well a magnesium zinc and iron. Look at substituting carbs and sugars with fat which will give satisfaction in the long run and help wean off the addiction. Sugar addiction in adolescence prepares the body for a long term sugar addiction and it’s very serious. A good ketonic diet will also help studies and ensure good health for the whole family.”

” Where is she getting the unhealthy foods from? How about trying some yummy recipes together? Not focused on weight loss or calorie reduction but based on showing her how delicious healthy food can be. It’s really empowering to have a large repertoire of meals too. This could include treats. Eg: ‘choc truffles’ which are really made from dates, almonds, raw cacao etc. totally delicious and yet superfoods. Win. I agree with previous posters being careful. I still don’t handle it well if anyone suggests I don’t need second helpings or chocolate or whatever. I’m 47 and my reaction would be an immediate ‘cut my nose off to spite my own face’ binge.”

” It could just be hormonal/emotional. I was advised to not draw attention to the fact, just keep encouraging what you are doing. A dietician I spoke to once says she never counsels young girls to lose weight, just eat healthy and exercise and keep affirming all her many great qualities.”

” Every visit to the dietician, every comment about what to eat can be heard as “there’s something wrong with you/ you need fixing”. She gets that from everyone and everywhere else so my advice would be to leave it be. Let her ask for guidance if and when she wants to. It’s a guilt/shame cycle that’s so difficult to break and impossible to fix from the outside. I remember being that person.
Support her for whatever she’s up to. Your healthy examples have already given her the tools when she’s ready. The only way to not make food an issue- is to really not make it an issue at all.
It is tricky I know.”

” Such a sensitive issue. Has she made healthy food choices before? Is she going through any emotional issues? You can only be there for her when she asks for support, in the meanwhile make sure she knows that you love her unconditionally and continue with the example you’re setting. I know you only want what’s best for her.”

If you have the budget for it: There was a while that my daughter seemed quite sugar dependant (not a weight issue but rather health). I also watched some doccies on the bad effects of refined sugars on health. I just started replacing all the refined sugars with natural products like coconut sugar, nut flours, low carb products (banting/real food revolution products) etc and lots of fruit. My daughter actually loved experimenting freely with healthy options unrestrained. Now both my teens have a healthy appetite for healthy food …. with the odd binges and cravings every now and then.”

” We (parents)use an app called My Fitness Pal, its amazing to see what the so called healthy foods are laden with. So I tailor what I buy based on this, then everyone gets the same meals. You can manage everyones diets by signing up yourself, its free and well worth it.”

I don’t know. My family spared my feelings. I went from tubby to fat to hugely fat. My relationship with food was an addiction despite all the examples and help and everything from my family. I don’t think saying nothing is the answer. I spent 25 years struggling with weight issues, depression, T2 diabetes. Not sure that a more rigorous approach and being cruel to be kind might not have made a difference. 25 years of mostly miserable could have been averted.”

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