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Overweight teen in denial

(125 Posts)
Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 11:52:54

14 yr old dd has gained alot of weight very quickly. She has always been a bit chubby but has quite shockingly gained so much so quickly! I keep having to by bigger clothes and she is now several dress sizes bigger than me.
I am worried and try every approach in talking to her. I provide nothing but healthy meals and snacks. But she is clearly over eating out of the house or stealing extra food.
I caught her sneakily stirring a ton of butter into soup recently and asked her why she would do that and she would not engage convo instead saying it fell in!
I have exercise equipment I encourage her to use and dvds dumbbells etc
She says there is NO problem and she doesn't see the weight gain.
I said to her your clothes are splitting and I can't afford to replace everything.
She refuses groups, seeing a nurse and sporting activities.
Aibu in deciding to become more forceful with helping her.
For e.g.. you can have your phone when you have done 30mins exercise.
Not giving her money when she goes out with friends as i know it will go on junk food.
I think I have tried everything. I have showed her ted talks on nutrition, I have a treadmill smoothie maker at her disposal but she refuses to use it.
I can't bare seeing her like this and then just laying around in her room after school.
She has friends does well in school and will not acknowledge weight gain. She is closely becoming an adult size 16/18.
This might also be a bit of a wwyd?
I would really appreciate others ideas/opinions?

dollydaydream114 Mon 23-Jan-17 12:12:17

I don't think things like taking her phone until she's exercised are going to help, to be honest, and will probably just make things worse. It would be the same as telling a girl with anorexia that she can't have her phone until she's eaten a cake. It's just going to make her feel worse about herself and dig her heels in.

She is at a tricky age where girls can gain weight very easily indeed (I put on a lot of weight when I was about 13 or 14 but then lost it when I got slightly older without really changing my diet at all) - but if she is sneaking butter into her soup and is in denial about her weight gain then it sounds like she has a problem with food and eating that needs some psychological help.

Out of interest, how tall is she? Because 14-year-old being a size 16 if they're 5'7" is big difference from a 14-year-old being a size 16 if they're 4'11".

MissHemsworth Mon 23-Jan-17 12:25:08

Do you think she may have some sort of eating disorder? The reason I ask is putting the butter in the soup is the sort of thing I would do. I have struggled with eating disorders & I now have a very unhealthy relationship with food/body image. All possibly triggered by my mums constant dieting & being massively over weight. I think she was so desperate for me to never be fat (put me on diets from age 13 when I 'ballooned' to a size 12). My sister has always been massively over weight & has always been in denial about it.

No real advise I'm afraid OP apart from if it were my daughter I would want to seek professional advice I think as it's such a delicate subject for women these days & would want to know the best way of tackling it from a psychological POV.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 12:28:15

Thanks for your reply. She is 5'5 so fairly tall. She is about a 14/16 on the top half and 18 on the bottom.
I am totally frustrated with reaching out to her and going to alot of trouble to help her when I also have younger children to care for, and she absolutely point blank ( sometimes aggressively ) refuse to help herself.
I obviously don't want to make her feel bad and the one time I got her to see a nurse about her health last year she was furious with me.
The nurse suggested family country walks and days out which I have started doing but which she hates and getting her to come at all is a huge ordeal.
I don't think she is depressed she seems to not take anything seriously always cracking jokes and has a huge social circle. But I see her getting out of breath and she walks really really slowly.
The reason I thought a bit of bribery might help is that I know I am quite soft as a (single) parent and think maybe I need to up my game in trying to help her
I think once she starts losing weight she will feel amazing and want to do it for herself.
It's just getting her to make a start or even acknowledge her weight is an issue.

WorraLiberty Mon 23-Jan-17 12:37:13

I think at this age, any changes to her diet and exercise can only come from her really.

You say she's always been a bit chubby, so presumably she's always been overfed and not taken enough exercise for most of her life up until now?

That's not going to change overnight. If it was that easy, I'm sure you would have got a handle on her chubbiness when she was younger, and you were solely responsible for her food/exercise.

She's not silly. She's 14yrs old and she knows at a size 16/18 she is obese.

But only slow encouragement is likely to help.

Certainly not punishment.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 12:43:12

Yes it could be an eating disorder because of the way she sneaks things.
If I give her money to go shopping with her friends they buy make up, clothes magazines and she buys sweets and food with it and denies it. But I have seen the receipts.
I don't believe in diets I just try to make as many healthy decisions as I can for all of us. My other children are a healthy size for their age and I teeter around a size 12.
I try very hard to promote high self esteem and a healthy body image with her.
Because i know its a sensitive subject.
But as mean as it sounds it seems alot of the time just plain greed.
She will also go to her band sometimes after a meal and say I havn' t fed her and then has another meal!
I would love to get her to go to a professional to help but she point blank refuses.
I also worry what kind of example this is showing the younger ones as they have started asking for extra food at bedtime after having more than enough during the day. She asks me what can she have to eat so much that they are starting to copy.
I am not really sure who I talk to about this especially as she will not see a doctor with me.

Pardonwhat Mon 23-Jan-17 12:44:20

This might be missing the mark but you said 'stealing food'. Is there rules on access to food in your house? I only ask as when I was younger I had a friend who's parents had locks on the kitchen cupboards as a child and as she got older she'd gorge on food just because she could.
Could there be anything causing her to turn to comfort eating?
She's 14 - sadly there's little you can do other than encourage her.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 12:44:39

Nans * Not band

dollydaydream114 Mon 23-Jan-17 12:45:17

I am totally frustrated with reaching out to her and going to alot of trouble to help her

I don't think she is depressed she seems to not take anything seriously always cracking jokes and has a huge social circle.

I think it's actually possible to be depressed and still crack jokes all the time; I've certainly done that myself.

On the other hand - although you can't imagine why she wouldn't want to lose weight, has it occurred to you that she's just perfectly happy the way she is? She's probably rejecting your offers of help because as far as she's concerned, she's absolutely fine and doesn't think she needs it. What you think is 'help' is what she considers to 'nagging'. You say you're convinced she'll feel better if she's slimmer ... but maybe she doesn't. Maybe she actually feels happier being on the chubby side while eating what she wants, than being slim and feeling under pressure to watch her diet all the time.

I realise you'll be concerned for her health, but she probably doesn't see it that way. Teenagers often find it almost impossible to see the long-term consequences of their behaviour - it all just seems too distant to them.

I do totally understand why you're concerned and I agree that sneaking butter into soup is worrying, but however you decide to approach things, try not to project your own feelings about weight on to your daughter. Not everyone is actually that concerned about their weight and she may well feel perfectly happy and confident in her size, so just tread carefully as I think being too heavy-handed or making too many 'I know better than you what is good for you' moves are really going to alienate her. She's 14, and at that age teenagers are often very much trying to prove to themselves that they, not their parents, are controlling their own personal decisions (anorexia is often really about maintaining control and autonomy over one's own body, and I think deliberately overeating can be the same). I think you need to tread really carefully and maybe go to your GP (without your daughter) and ask his/her advice.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 12:50:33

I could put locks on the cupboards and fridge somehow but I think she over indulges around friends houses, at school, once I give her the money I don't know what she is really spending it on.

When I say chubby growing up she just had a round face and looked chubby even though she was in her age group clothing.
She was more active participating in sports that she no longer wants to.

DontTouchTheMoustache Mon 23-Jan-17 12:52:13

That sounds tough OP, you obviously love her very much and want her to be happy and healthy. I agree with PP that taking phone away etc might be a bad idea as it will give her even more of a bad relationship with food. I wish I had some.helpful advice but I think she needs to speak to a psychologist

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 12:57:31

Yes I think she does think she is fine as she is! But no I cant see how she can be. She can't wear what she wants to wear. Its all leggings and skater dresses and long tops and she has so little energy.
My concern is without any regulating of what she eats this could get massively out of control. She is still gaining not maintaining at a 16/18.

WorraLiberty Mon 23-Jan-17 12:57:38

Yes, and children who aren't overfed and get enough exercise generally aren't chubby. Clothing size is certainly no marker either these days.

What I'm trying to say OP, is that now you're no longer responsible for her weight issue, you seem to be panicking and knee-jerking your DD into taking responsibility for something that you obviously struggled with.

It was difficult for you and now she's grown way past the chubby stage, I'm sure it's 100 times harder for her, even if she won't talk about it/address it.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 13:02:17

Thanks for all the replies.
I agree she needs to speak to a psychologist but I don't know how I can do that without her willingness? and that in itself she might take me engaging with professionals about her as 'fat shaming' or being disloyal to her in a sense. I would never want to make her feel like her worth is in her weight or that I'm picking on her.
I think maybe I just need something to kick start her or give her the incentive? But I don't know what?

Emmageddon Mon 23-Jan-17 13:05:56

Is she interested in ANY kind of outdoor activities? Horse riding, for example, or rock climbing, caving, hill walking. Anything that could get her activity levels up, to burn off the food she is eating.

I bet her jokes are a cover up, she's probably choosing to make funny remarks before anyone else can.

Slimming World offer support for overweight teenagers, I think they can attend for free - and the SW diet involves eating loads of stuff, it might be the solution for her.

Tikky Mon 23-Jan-17 13:14:44

It's really tricky for you. I don't think there is any magic answer. You just have to muddle along. I think I would be tempted to be quite frank with her but it really depends on your daughters temperament.

Rarelondon Mon 23-Jan-17 13:15:33

She was not overfed as a younger child and used to be very active. Participating in various sports clubs that as she hit puberty decided not to continue with.
She does have a different father to my other children that she has very little contact with. He has struggled with his weight but she doesn't see him he has no influence over her daily life what so ever.
So I know genetics has a part to play. But I am more with the nurture over nature philosphy and don't think his weight should determine her life.
She developed quite early puberty wise so when she started putting a few pounds on I assumed that was normal. But she hasn't stopped gaining pounds and over the last month or so has shot up in weight.
Which is why I am looking to tackle it now before she has real problems on her hands.

Niskayuna Mon 23-Jan-17 13:19:39

I agree that's getting into psychologist territory. She isn't accidentally gaining it due to a bit of a fondness for post-school chips. She's deliberately trying to gain it with secret butter.

I've heard of abuse victims doing this in an effort to put off an abuser... but I doubt this current stand-off will lead to her admitting anything like that.

A DVD, a dumbbell and a smoothie isn't going to help here (no light work out can make a dent in the kind of calories she's taking in, and smoothies are high-sugar/low-fibre, not healthy ;) Down with smoothies) so my first tip would be back off entirely with your well-meaning but misguided suggestions.

This is not a girl in need of a jog or an apple, this is a girl on a campaign of putting something into her body in large, addictive quantities and acquiring more of it via theft and deception. Tackle it as a parent of a drug-addict might.

Admittedly I don't know what that is. Googling around a bit might bring up some numbers for young people's counselling, support teams, addiction support or psycological help and therapy. But tackle it from the angle of "why is the child self-harming" rather than from the angle of chocolate Hob Nobs. This is an addiction/self harm kind of thing, not a weight thing.

corythatwas Mon 23-Jan-17 13:20:50

Ime the first prerequisite for being able to help a struggling teen is to have her trust. This doesn't mean you have to do what she wants or be "soft", but it does mean you have to be able to rein in your frustrations and avoid a punitive approach. This girl has a problem, it is quite clearly genuine, it doesn't matter whose fault it is- all that matters is how the two of you can get the better of it. You need to be on the same side. Kneejerk reactions are the last thing you want.

First of all, I would look at your general communication. Not because I am for a moment suggesting that there is anything wrong with your relationship which has led to this problem, but because you are going to need every ounce of trust and companionable-ness that you can lay hold of. Is there anything you enjoy talking about or doing together that has nothing to do with eating or exercise? Work on that. Make it clear that there are other things about her that you enjoy and value and which are still more important. Don't let her think she is the eating problem.

Secondly, I would not at all rule out the possibility that she is depressed. Extreme vivacity can be a sign of anxiety and/or depression. It takes my dd that way. Also, the slumping in bed. So I would keep in mind that there is at least the possibility that she has a MH disorder. Don't waste time speculating whether it's "real" or not; you will only exhaust yourself that way. The more you can get away from thoughts of blame the better: you will achieve more if you can think of this as a problem that the two of you have to deal with, like a sprained ankle.

Thirdly, do not punish her but tell her that she needs to see a doctor to rule out any physiological problem, like thyroid disorders. Don't let her argue about that, explain that some things are treatable and she could have more energy and that you will not take no for an answer. Stay as calm as you can.

If it does turn out she has an eating disorder/is over-eating due to depression, think of a two-pronged approach. Try to find a way of exercising that she would actually enjoy (drama classes, dance, some sport she might fancy, swimming). Ime very few teens enjoy country walks, especially with their parents. But also try to encourage her to get professional support. Make it clear that no one will be judging her. Make it clear that any treatment will put her in charge of her body.

But avoid kneejerk reactions at all cost.

AliceInUnderpants Mon 23-Jan-17 13:20:52

How quickly has she gained the weight? You say she is bigger on the bottom, have you considered the possibility of pregnancy?

KlingybunFistelvase Mon 23-Jan-17 13:21:33

I put on loads of weight when I was about that age. It probably came from a place of loneliness and self loathing in my case. Nothing my parents could have said or done would have made any difference really.

If you really want her to see a therapist / counsellor as you mention upthread then maybe try to identify what the issues other than her weight are. If she's unhappy and the weight gain is just a symptom of that, then the issue definitely won't go away if you force her to exercise or withhold food.

WorraLiberty Mon 23-Jan-17 13:22:01

She already has real problems on her hands if she's aged 14 and a size 18.

I'm not sure what the answer is now it's got this far, but I do know that not allowing her to use her phone until she's exercised, is likely to have a pretty detrimental affect.

Most teens would see that as a punishment, rather than an incentive.

PerspicaciaTick Mon 23-Jan-17 13:22:48

She may be denying there is a problem when she talks to you - perhaps because she knows you will try and force her to deal with it head on. But I doubt she is unaware of the issue. Someone who is stirring butter into soup knows they are not making good, rational choices - however something is going on in her life which means she is wrapping herself in comfort and (self)care in the only way she feels she can. Perhaps she feels you would be cross with her and reject her and that makes her feel unloveable and unworthy? (I'm not saying you would behave this way, but that she may fear it).
I don't know - but i would be looking for underlying causes about why she is not feeling great about herself...rather than trying to fix the symptoms and making her eat less.

BadKnee Mon 23-Jan-17 13:22:52

This so hard OP. I was a teen like that - my mum was slim but I was a binger and would "steal" biscuits and cakes and spend all my money on sweets. I was miserable.

I learnt for myself how to deal with it. But it took time. Nothing my mother said or did had any impact at all.

My advice - keep the fridge full of the good stuff as at least if she overeats it is on soup with butter not sugar-laden junk. Let her work it out for herself as best you can with an open door to "help" if she asks. Heartbreaking for you though OP.

I still find it easy to overeat - and I am on the heavy side now - but was fine for many, many years.

corythatwas Mon 23-Jan-17 13:24:09

Reading over your later posts, OP, my money is on depression. I think Niskayuna is spot on: this is a form of self harm.

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