Raising your daughter

Sugar and spice and all things nice... or moods and malice and meanness? What is your daughter made of? How can you support, guide and enjoy her?

How do I help my overweight daughter?

Written by Alison Morris on 29/12/2009

Q. My older daughter has become very tubby, not just a bit overweight. She wolfs down her dinner long before the rest of us are part way through ours, and then seems to still be hungry, getting toast, cereal, etc through the evening. My younger daughter is quite slim, athletic, has a boyfriend and lots of other friends.
I am so worried that my older daughter is comfort eating and she is hiding something from me. She appears happy enough in herself and talks to me about her friends and what she has done during the day. I have dropped hints about balanced diets and exercise, but she has lost interest in all the activities she used to love, like horse riding, cadets, swimming and walking. Should I tell her straight out that she is getting fat?

A. Please don’t tell your daughter you think she’s fat. If she’s comfort eating it won’t help as she will feel criticised and have an even greater need to comfort eat. It might also drive her to try to hide her eating- which could lead to Bulimia.

I suggest you discuss her eating and exercise rather than her size. Girls can be very sensitive to body size and need to feel they are loved by their parents no matter what size and shape they are. However, it is perfectly legitimate in a teenager’s eyes for their parents to be concerned about their health, even though they may seem dismissive of it. It is possible there is a medical reason for your daughter’s increased hunger –so you could suggest a visit to the doctor to get her checked out. In a quiet moment you could ask straight out if there is anything she is anxious about.

Exercise can be tackled the same way, initially by just expressing that you’ve noticed she has lost interest in a lot of things she previously enjoyed. It may simply be that she has grown out of them, but it would be safe for you to express concern that she isn’t getting a lot of exercise and that this isn’t good for her health.

Just knowing that you have noticed and care may well be all it takes for your daughter to address the issue herself or to open up to you a bit more if necessary.

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