Should I back off with my food obsessed 15 YO DSD?

(23 Posts)
taxiforme Sun 18-Nov-12 21:09:54

Back story, DH and EXw divorced about 6 yrs ago. Both have set up new homes and are re married. DSC spend one night and every sat night through to sunday after teatime with us. We all live very close by.

Divorce was amicable in the end but I suspect, and I have been told by others that DSD2 struggled when her mum left her dad (she moved in with a new partner and that's why the marriage ended). I understand that DSD2 has always been a bit clingy and attention seeking and was a tantrumy child (this is from both sides of the family). However she is a lovely girl, capable of great kindness and full of love- she is a bit immature for her age and she has not started her periods yet.

DH and I have been together for 4 years and I have always had a very good relationship with her and her siblings.

ExW (her mum) is a bit "funny" about food, which may be relevant. She is allergic to a lot of things and they never have take outs or go out for meals, she also lives and eats very frugally from what I can gather. Mum is a fitness fanatic (gym every night and runs, does triathlons).

15 DSD is obsessed by food is putting on weight big style (I would say 3 stones over the past year) and it is beginning to cause DH concern.

- she actually calls to ask what is for tea, lunch or can she have a take out
- she constantly asks when we will be eating be it tea lunch ect when she is here
- when she is here she takes the lead in deciding what to eat for the others so they often have what she wants
- she often has issues with what we are eating- if she doesnt "like" it she will force a decision to change or simply make herself a pile of what she wants
- she often decides to dislike something just to get what she wants (see above)
- she spends a good deal of her pocket money on food for herself. I understand that her mum rations her PM and also asks for receipts when she comes home from shopping with her friends

All this would be cause for concern alone but she is also getting fat (she is a size 16/18 at 15) she does no exercise and as well as being obsessed by food she overeats and eats very unhealthily. Yesterday she had, amongst the usuals

KFC in town with mates
Indian meal with us (all high fat choices)

This morning she had large bowl of cereal, croissant and then the leftover takeaway from the fridge, she had also had (we didnt realise this) a bag of crisps and also some Roses chocolates she had been given which were in her room, then wanted some bacon sandwiches for lunch. A good 2000 calories at least by midday and all high fat. When we have a chinese takeaway she chooses duck pancakes, chips and egg fried rice!!

My DH and I are in a difficult position. She is with her mum five days of the week but we both accept that her mum is NOT allowing her to gorge and help herself, quite the reverse and actively removes food/does not have it in the house. We don't do the same here and we do have a fair amount of "nice stuff" which the other two kids are relatively good at rationing themselves to. Although I suspect we are a bit more forgiving than her mum is, this situation, I do not feel is driven by us having a house of plenty which she is getting fat on in less than two days a week. I don't want to have a house where food is locked away!!

My DH thinks that his exW is unlikely to ask for help (she is a very private person) but we suspect that she is struggling too (reference back to her insisting that she sees receipts from shopping trips). DH thinks she will be on board and will be willing to set the wheels in motion. Difficulty is, that she blames DH as he has bad eating habits!!

I know that this is a well trodden road. I am hoping that some of you have at least something to share to help us. We have tried talking to her without any reference to diets or weight or anything negative. The fact of the matter is, she does not think she has a problem, refering to herself as "being slim" yesterday and how she "hasnt had anything to eat"

I am also acutely aware (as an outsider) that she has issues which could be caused by her parents splitting up, which is the elephant in the room. Food to her, is love. I am not sure that my DH "gets" this. I am just as aware that it may be considered by some, as just not my place to get involved. However, I think I am hearing a cry for help. I have no children of my own.

tropicalfish Sun 18-Nov-12 22:32:40

It must be really difficult for your dsd,to be that overweight at school would be bound to attract negative comments.
What time does she tend to have dinner in both houses? If she has it early this may stop her snacking.
Maybe there is another reason that is making her eat. How is school and how is she getting on with her friends. Is she anxious about anything.

SchroSawMummyRidingSantaClaus Sun 18-Nov-12 22:39:35

I think you should maybe have a look at this.

I don't think her Mother will be able to help her in this in all honesty unless she changes her attitude towards food as well.

Beamur Sun 18-Nov-12 22:39:37

Three stone in a year is an awful lot of weight to gain.
If she is not able to eat to excess at her Mums, then maybe you do need to think about what food you have available at your house.
I think you're right though, this is more about an unhealthy relationship with food.

Oh dear - it does sound like she has a seriously dodgy relationship with food.

One small thing you can do is to remove some of the temptation at your house. If she's already overeating elsewhere and is hiding and eating food in private then having the option of bacon butties and take-aways with you adds to the problem.

She sounds like I was at that age. You need to talk to her, you and DH. You need to challenge her when she says she's hardly eaten anything when you know she has. If she's in denial then challenging her perceptions could help.

I don't really know what the answers are to this one, but I hope you find them.

I also suspect that even at her mum's where there isn't temptation she is overeating when out of the house and hiding food in the same way that she does at your house.

Bigwuss Mon 19-Nov-12 07:15:10

Have you considered that this may be her teenage rebellion? Particularly if she is living in a highly controlled environment, and looking at receipts suggests it is.
If you think she is emotionally eating, it might be helpful to focus on getting her support to deal with this, rather than the eating. If she is given tools to help her deal with her emotions, it will be better for her in the long run and the eating may sort it self out.
Does she chat to her mum or is she controlling and difficult?

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 07:32:14

It isn't about food- it is about control issues and at the bottom of it is a deeply upset child. I think that it is more that you can handle and you need outside help- at the very least some professional advice.

gazzalw Mon 19-Nov-12 07:46:46

I know this is a bit left-field but have you considered that she might have some metabolic/hormonal disorder. It's relatively unusual for girls to get to 15 these days without having started their periods particularly if their BMI is normal or relatively high (which you might expect if she's piled on lots of weight...)

Of course that doesn't solve the obsession with food but it's worth just eliminating as a partial cause...

msrisotto Mon 19-Nov-12 07:50:14

I think a trip to the GP is in order actually, I would be seeking a referral to an eating disorder psychologist.

Chottie Mon 19-Nov-12 07:52:10

Just to say I agree with exoticfruits, it is about control.

I second a visit to the gp, periods usually start at 7 stone. Also it sounds to me like at some point she hasn't been fed enough ( growth spurt, overly healthy mum) and is therefore overcompensating. Someone on another thread said that women eat because you can get enough food, but not enough love/ friendship/ something else, this would be a very possible feeling after a divorce. But I would definitely start with the doc.

YerMaw1989 Mon 19-Nov-12 08:44:39

I was a bit hmm about the lack of periods too, especially at that weight and age.

YerMaw1989 Mon 19-Nov-12 08:49:44

talkingnonsense is actually bang on no periods at 15 definitely indicates failure to thrive at some level so perhaps has gone into overdrive.

But this also more about controlling/upset in her life, I was shocked when I read about a 15 year old young woman being asked to produce reciepts when having gone shopping? I'd have told my mother to jump off the far end off fuck if she had ever tried that with me (and she always insists I was never a bolshy child) and the fact she agrees and does so is actually quite sad, and indicates low confidence/submissive behaviour? what teen would actually do that? I understand your in a hard position OP.

exoticfruits Mon 19-Nov-12 09:05:52

I agree YerMaw-I was a very easy DC, and generally did as asked, but there is no way that I would have produced the receipts.She obviously isn't strong enough to refuse.

taxiforme Mon 19-Nov-12 15:47:44

Thanks all. You have all said what i really think and everything you have all said has nailed it. She IS submissive but also had huge tantrums over the smallest of things which as a teenager has turned into passive aggression. She can be insanely awkward and demanding yet, as I said, capable of great generosity and loving acts. She also has issues with her friends (she appears to almost "buy" their friendship at times).

All I can do is chat with my DH and raise my concerns with him and back off. Do the best that I can on a practical level with the food and healthy eating here. Does it come as any surprise that DH is terrified of his ExW? There is much f*ckwittery, control and denial going on and in the middle of it, is this kid. Believe me, the showing of the receipts is only the half of it when it comes to control.

I raised the no periods issue six months ago. DH raised it with exW, she was not worried about it, by the sounds.

As for professional advice, yes, I absolutely agree but DSD has point blank refused to see that she has a problem. It is in the hands of my DH now and he needs to tackle is exW. I think that a visit to the docs is on the cards as a minimum (he did say six months ago that if she had not started by November he would take her whether ExW liked it or not). I am sure he can "drop" the weight thing into the convo as I am sure she will be weighed as a matter of course.

At the end of the day, I am not her mother. I can only do so much to help. Its a strange egg who has not had some issues "with food" growing up, I think we all knew someone who had or had some ourselves..but I think, this is a symptom of something much, much, deeper. Poor kid.

Thanks again.

LongTimeLurking Tue 20-Nov-12 22:39:29

If she doesn't accept she has a problem then I really don't see what you can do - apart from the practical things like not keeping lots of junk food in the house, limiting take-aways and so on. I mean if the whole family is having a pizza or whatever it is impossible for her to resist.

As others have said or hinted at, if she is eating THAT much then there is some kind of underlying mental health issue really. Depression, Anxiety, Self-esteem problems... maybe she is being bullied at school who knows really.

Problem is a lot of 'normal' weight people who have never had issues with food just see an obese person and think 'well, just eat less and do more'........ and that IS basically the solution, but until the underlying problem is addressed it isn't possible to implement those changes and make them stick.

To me it sounds like she needs some professional input - maybe from the GP, a specialist or counselling/CBT of some kind. But that brings me back to the first point; if she doesn't accept there is a problem and take ownership of it there is not a lot you can do about it!

I'm also wonder if you are unknowingly / unintentionally making the problems worse by trying to control her behaviour. If she has low self esteem and is worried about where her life is going, well, then the eating is probably one area she can take control of and trying to monitor / police her food could just be making her more likely to overeat!

PropositionJoe Sun 25-Nov-12 20:47:49

As others have said, it all sounds sad and complicated. I think you have to start by making sure crap is not readily available in your house, cut back the takeaways too. It's not hard to do.

beelights Mon 03-Dec-12 22:43:07

She sounds like I was as a teenager. I ate and ate and grew to 16 stone age 16, all in the midst of divorce parent stuff and to and fro weekends with step-parents. Anyway, can I sound a note of caution? I pretended to myself and others that I wasn't eating half as much as I was. I hid food, stole food, sneaked food...and truly, underneath it all, despite all pleas from me that I was eating healthily, I did know what I was doing, even whilst saying I was slim/not bingeing. I would just say, don't underestimate the combination of the pain of self-deception with an emotionally volatile and turbulent time in her life to create shame, which will not help. My mum took me to the doctor and it was the worst thing she could have done. It increased the shame and humiliation a hundredfold. She sounds like she is exercising some control in this area of her life. Maybe suggest she collaborates on choosing her food for the weekend, as weird a combination as she likes as long as it is healthy? I did this recently with my daughter (who was spending her pocket money on pot noodles and crisps...sigh) and she came up with her list of tomato juice, pistachios, guacamole, watermelon (and similar)...weird and expensive but better than the crap she would buy herself. The other thing that I might suggest is that I think it depersonalises it and makes it less shameful if you talk about how the food is impacting her body not her, as in, 'Your body might feel a bit sluggish after a heavy meal' rather than 'You are going to make yourself unwell/overweight/unhealthy'. I know this sounds petty, but it helps make it less about her as a person doing something she probably knows is not great for her and more about something she can talk about objectively without shame or guilt. Sorry if this is rather long and I hope it doesn't sound preachy. It's just I really feel for your DSD and I also have a teen going through her own food issues. You sound like you are doing a great job supporting her and being concerned for her. I hope it all works out.

beelights Mon 03-Dec-12 23:04:02

Just realised it sounds like I am saying don't go to the doctor...I was taken on a pretext of weighing and measuring and check up and without my understanding and proper consent. Very different from a discussion that leads to agreement to see a doc. Apologies if that wasn't clear.

Bigwuss Tue 04-Dec-12 07:20:12

Reading what bee lights says, is there anyway she can access counselling services without going to the gp, if she won't agree to go. Can she start to talk to someone about her family situation at school, as this may open it up as a discussion. Poor girl.

taxiforme as a SM who has had an overweight DSS I can understand very well the challenges you are facing. DH and Ex-W split up when DSS was 4, by age 9 he had a 32" waist. Ex-W also super fit, didn't eat much, never ate breakfast etc whereas at our house we sat down to meals and always had fruit and vegetables, with very few treats around (and weren't so fit!). My DS wouldn't gorge on an ice cream tub, but DSS would happily empty it. So whenever DSS came over I would make sure there were no crisps, bars of chocolate, sweets or ice cream lying around. I would shop on the day and buy just enough for a dessert that day, to be enjoyed by all of us.

It was awful watching him eat. The number of times I used to say "food to mouth, not mouth to food" as he would lower his head at the table to get closer to the food going up to his mouth. And the speed of it going in. It was enough to put you off your own meal - there was no pleasure in it all. The food represented something else altogether.

It's so much better now where at age 17 he understands that high fat food makes him gain weight and not look good. Looks are very important to him. He's a lovely boy, always been great with my DS who is younger than him, but his parents divorce and his mother's relationship with food and her body has messed up how he sees food. It wasn't until he was 14 and really pretty big, that his mum took him to the doctor who pronounced him obese, gave him a talking to and a diet. His mother arranged a personal trainer(!) once a week and somehow it got through to DSS.

Like you I was unable to contribute much beyond controlling the type of food that came in to the house. I didn't allow him to dictate meals though, and if you can you should take the views of the others into account "it's their turn" etc. Your DH has to talk it through with his Ex-W, and agree a joint approach ( preferably with the buy-in of her DP and you, too) and then talk it through with DSD.

I would show him this thread - the relationship with food, and the lack of periods are two separate, but potentially linked issues, that need to be discussed with a doctor.

It sounds to me like she may be suffering from depression/anxiety. Google the symptoms and have a chat with her about them.

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