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DD overeating, don't know what to do

(71 Posts)
andruafer Tue 25-Sep-12 19:34:35

Sorry this is long. I'm frustrated and would really appreciate it if you bore with me and gave me some advice. sad

Have namechanged for this, becaue, well...I feel guilty even saying it.

My little DD is 5, lovely, bright, with a beautiful kind heart and so trusting and sweet, but she is obsessed with food. She isnt interested in healthy food,( apart from fruit) and while I dont necessarily think thats unusual for a 5yo, I am concerned with the qauntity she can put away and her behaviour around food. She isnt overweight as such, but she is defintely 'thicker' than her friends for want of a better word, and I am 100 per cent sure that the only reason she isn't fat is because I have (some) control over her eating.

Once a week or so DD will have a little friend over for tea. On those nights we will have pizza and chips, nuggets, fishfingers or whatever ( sometimes homemade, sometimes not). It's a treat, and they will have ice cream or some chocolates afterwards. We usually tend to have another night like this at the weekend as a family. DD has no problems eating at these times and will eat with gusto. In fact, she will always always without fail ask for more. I am often amazed where she puts it and 9 times out of 10 will refuse her more.
Its difficult to just give dd a little treat if a chocolate or a packet of buttons etc, because as soon as she is finished, the inevitable whining for more will start. The treat may have been a reward for getting a certifcate at school or whatever, but this sentiment often gets lost because when she whines at me for more, I end up cross with her.
When she does have a friend over, and they have their treats, DD comes back to me repeatedly for more. Her friends get fuller way before she does and sometimes roll their eyes at how often she will interrupt play to come to ask for more treats. She isn't embarrassed when her friends get exasperated at her. I try not to tell her off in front of them, but the whining can be hard to listen to and I do end up telling her off sometimes when they are there. She doesnt seem fazed and will carry on asking.

Take today for example, DD had her little friend over for a play date. After a pizza tea, they had a little packet of harribo. She asked for a few more jellies and I did let her this time as the harribo packets were mini ones. The friends mum came to collect her child and I made a cuppa with a biscuit for us while the kids played. DD came into the room literally every 2 mintues asking for one of the biscuits. My friend gave her one (!) and still this did not satisfy dd. She came back again and again, hovering by the door and ignoring her friend who wanted to play. This is par for the course - if dd is on a play date, either at our house or her friends, she spends most of it hovering around the kitchen.
DD has taken food from my plate before now, ie, with a cake or something sweet, she had eaten hers quickly and then tried to snatch mine. She would never do this with a regular healthy meal, and in fact, she got in so much trouble for doing it that time, she hasn't repeated it since. She does however have a habit of hovering her hand over the plate of something she wants. She won't actually take it because she knows she would get in trouble, but she wont remove her hand from over the plate until you tell her off. She will ignore you until you raise your voice.
I am also embarrassed to say that she is always the last kid to leave the table at a birthday party. She will just sit there ( even at her own party) munching away and oblivious to the fun going on around her. I always have to remove the food in the end and can feel the other parents looking at dd in wonderment. If we are on holiday with my family and my mum is handing out treats to the grandkids, dd will go back for more and more. Her little cousin once called her greedy and I told him off, but she wasn't fazed and carried onj regardless. I hate the thought of my precious child being labelled like this, but it is greed. I hate that word, but she is a greedy child. sad

I'll now give you another glimpse of what a regular day is like in our house. ( as opposed to a treat night) DD causes a scene at the table most nights because she doesn't like what I serve. When I say 'scene', she isnt a shouty child or disruptive child, but is a fantastic whiner and will take 30-40 minutes to eat a few mouthfuls, and constantly ( and I mean constantly) negotiate every single mouthful that she has to eat.
To give you an example, mealtimes usually sound like this: can I stop now? how much more of this do I have to eat? if I eat this carrot can I have a yoghurt? can I have another drink cos I dont like this dinner and the drink helps to take the taste away? can I stop? mum can I stop now? get the jist!.....Frustrating just isnt the word, and so I get hugely wound up by this and become very shouty because you can't have a conversation about anything else. I can't talk to my DP about his day, or dd about hers, because the meal revolves around how much dd can get away with eating and she wants you to watch how many mouthfuls she eats so that she can eat her 'quota' and then stop. She just hates most of what I put in front of her, wont try new things and even something like a sunday roast will go untouched apart from the yorkshire and roasties. ( she is obsessed with carby foods - breads, chips etc)

So what do I do? How do I get her to A) have a more positive view of regular healthy foods like chicken dinners, fish pies, soups, pasta etc? How do I stop the meal times being so stressful? Every day I promise myself I am not going to engage and simply let her eat it or go hungry - but she sucks you in! Its so hard! More importantly ( and this really is my main concern) How do I get my dd to stop obessing over sugary crappy food? To know when to stop? To stop the incessant begging, regardless of where we are and who sees her?

One thing I know for sure is that once I no longer have control over my dd's eating, she will get fat and I am so worried for her. sad

Spookey80 Tue 25-Sep-12 19:41:04

I don't really have any advice but just wanted to empathise. My dd is nearly 4 and very similar to this.
Your mealtimes seem very similar to what I do, I.e she will old down fish fingers and beans but when it comes to regular meals, I.e most of the time, it's a real battle. I do find she eats more when I really restrict snacks close to tea times, and she loves certain things lasagne, pasta, roast dinner not bad.
I find it hard as it seems to have become good vs bad food which I don't want as I want her to have a healthy attitude to food and just enjoy a balanced diet.
I have just put it down to age and am persevering but didn't want to read and run,, so just to say youre not alone in your battle.
Ad I will be watching with interest.

pennyhill Tue 25-Sep-12 19:47:53

I'm sure others will come along and give you better answers, but I would:
- stop referring to sweets, biscuits etc. as "treats". This really leaps out of your post.
- stop using unhealthy food as rewards for behaviour, achievements in school, for anything.
- stop buying the sugary crap.

My 3yo could quite happily eat a packet of biscuits in one sitting, and when we had them in the house on a regular basis, he always asked for them. So I stopped buying biscuits and it took him about two days to forget about them. Pudding in our house is almost always natural yogurt and fruit.

It all sounds like attention seeking.

She may well be hungry, and ofcourse all children like crap foods and will want more and more. But it really sounds like she has worked out how to get your attention.

With any dinner, give her an appropriate portion. If she eats it great. If she doesnt, no fuss. Take it away.

Same with treats. Give her an appropriate amount and never give in to more. No means no.

pennyhill Tue 25-Sep-12 19:48:48

What normal suppers that you make DOES she like, btw?

Twonker Tue 25-Sep-12 19:50:15

Sorry you are having a hard time with your dd's eating. I have gotta couple of ideas, but I'm sure somebody more experienced than me will come along soon and give you good advice.

1) rewards for good behaviour should not be food
2) food should not be given to cheer a child up.
3)Children should not complain about their food. I know this is really difficult, but I think you need to explain to your child that she is being selfish in dominating the dinner table with her whining. Food is primarily for energy and health, not pleasure. Therefore if you don't like it, eat the bits you can eat, try the bits you don't want, and go hungry if you don't eat enough after a reasonable amount of time. I tell my kids that they are allowed to leave food, but I don't want to hear 'I don't like it' or any variation on that theme.
4) I wouldn't give her any 'kiddie food' or sweets or treats until she stops whining. Only when she can follow the general rules of polite eating, including not pigging at the party, does she get the privilege of you considering her taste when preparing meals.

Forgive me if I am harsh. I'm sure some people will disagree with me. I have found that being strict about food has given me 2 good eaters, and I don't have many problems with them (so far!)

Twonker Tue 25-Sep-12 19:53:05

Spookey80,I agree, any snack will ruin a kids appetite. Give them something sweet 30 mins before tea and they will not be interested. No sweets til after dinner.

colditz Tue 25-Sep-12 19:54:51

If she doesn't want to eat a meal, she should leave the table, and there's NOTHING else except water until the next meal. And don't suddenly start serving supper out of guilt, either, because it will take her approximately 3 hours to wise up and skip dinner in favour of cereal or toast.

A few days of being quite hungry will stopthe meal time whining.

Secondly, ditch every single 'treat' in your house, don't buy them again, and reward her with stickers, not food. Food that makes you fat is not a treat, its a long term punishment.

Aboutlastnight Tue 25-Sep-12 19:55:14

I would let her ear as much healthy food - proper dinner as she wants. But I would get control of the treats. We have 'sweetie Friday' when the girls go to the corner shop and choose some sweets. They get a cane with granny on sat. And er...thst's it ( we do have surprise treats sometimes)

I would allow fruit or yoghurt after dinner. When friends visit I would give a biscuit and make it clear that is all she's getting.

Also - dies she do much running about?

Aboutlastnight Tue 25-Sep-12 19:56:19

'Cane' - 'cake' hmm

hillyhilly Tue 25-Sep-12 19:56:22

My dd is v similar and she is 7 now. She teeters on the brink of overweight and I worry about it a lot.
I think that you have to be firm and take as much emotion out of food as is humanly possible. Absolutely no negotiations - I tell my dd that I have given her an appropriate portion and so she needs to eat it. I let her leave potatoes or other carbs (not that she ever wants to, she eats the meat first, then the carb then tries to dodge the veg) but not veg.
She does know that I mean business. I also restrict sweet things to the weekend wherever possible but it can be a battle. I too, watch her fiends picking at food when they come while mine wolfs it down but I think that some people just like food more than others!
All you can do as a parent is bring her up knowing what is and isn't good for her and eating as wide a range of food as possible.

wonderingagain Tue 25-Sep-12 19:57:43

1. Don't buy the bad stuff - easier to refuse if it's not there.
2. Re-evaluate how you talk to her - you are in charge, no should mean no.
3. Make sure she can help herself to fruit or carrot sticks whenever she wants
4. Make sure that when she eats there is always plenty of veg with each meal
5. Always offer fruit before pudding, or instead of.
6. Don't let this slide, you are doing the right thing by nipping it in the bud now.

Schrodingershamster Tue 25-Sep-12 19:59:02

If she whines ignore. Just take the food away and no more til breakfast. She will soon learn.

Not sure what do do about the other issue though.

lisad123 Tue 25-Sep-12 19:59:07

My eldest got like this about age 6. We have no sweets or biscuits in the house now. They are allowed sweets on a Friday after school and that is it.
The fruit bowl is always full and if they don't eat dinner there is nothing else on offer. We don't do puddings unless we have visitors.
As for the carb obsession, it's because certain carbs, especially white bread, give the same sugar rush as sweets.

MadamGazelleIsMyMum Tue 25-Sep-12 20:06:16

No real advice, but sympathy, OP. my 7yo DSD has the same issues and am trying to help DH tackle it - not easy as DSD's mum doesn't acknowledge the problem. Agree though tht treats should be unconnected to food, and that if it isn't in the house, you can't give it to her. Have to have the same policy for myself!

poachedeggs Tue 25-Sep-12 20:08:52

I have a really food orientated 5 year old. I don't know the answers I'm afraid but I have a few ideas/things I try and do which might help.

Breakfast is a choice - porridge (oats and semi milk) usually topped with sunflower seeds or wholemeal toast with peanut butter or cream cheese. He can choose and if he whines I'll choose. He usually eats well and I let him have as much as he likes. He can have a bit of fruit afterwards.

A good breakfast seems to stave off the munchies and the begging better than white toast or cereals.

He's allowed (almost) unlimited fruit/peppers/carrots. For snacks he gets oatcakes with pate or something, yogurt or crabsticks.

He gets treats such as chocolate or biscuits or puddings at my discretion and not if he's asked. If he asks and whines then the treat is off the menu.

I am starting to think treating him with food isn't good after some thought recently about my own food issues. But that's going to be a long process and relies on me developing other reward systems.

akaemmafrost Tue 25-Sep-12 20:16:06

Exactly what colditz said. I would stop ALL puddings, sweets, chocs etc completely. I am quite relaxed with my kids diet they have a small amount of sweets or Choc most days but it is AS a pudding not in addition. They do moan when I dish up what they perceive as "healthy" food but not too much because I won't stand for it. Eat it or go without in this house and certainly will be NO pudding if proper food has not been eaten first.

Another thing is that I do serve food and snacks at pretty much set times, so they know there's no point asking in between. So they don't and I think they've got quite a good internal hunger clock iyswim? Honestly get rid of all the crap food and say this is how it is dd like it or lump it. Be STRONG!

CMOTDibbler Tue 25-Sep-12 20:20:58

I would stop the 'treats' entirely (if you don't buy it, she can't winge for more), and only ever offer fruit as a pudding. Make sure her servings are properly portioned to be veg heavy so she can't fill up on carbs and leave the rest.
Then declare that dinners are non negotiable. You eat it or you don't. If you don't like it, you don't comment on it, just eat what you do.

I have a friend with a dd like yours, and it does do my head in tbh, so I think you really do need to get tough for everyones sakes

amigababy Tue 25-Sep-12 20:24:47

I am not replying as a mum, I am replying as how I was as a 5 yo (40 odd years ago) as a food obsessed child (would start secret eating at 6 a.m, buy snacks on the way to school and back again when older, snack before tea, eat main course and cake at tea, snacks after, and when I was left home-alone - which happened a lot - would binge on EVERYTHING, not helpful as parents had a Rowntree chocolate discount card!)

I was lonely - food made me feel special. Having extra, or the last one of something made me feel special. Undoubtedly sweet food pushed my buttons - my dp's should not have had what they had in the house given how I was. They should have filled the house with fruit, not cake and sweets. But even so, I was making sugar sandwiches age 5, how could they have restricted bread, marg and sugar? We were a normal 1970's family, there was nothing unusual about my childhood really except I was/am a very sensitive person.

I am convinced this is not conscious attention seeking, and having read every diet book in existence (!) particularly the ones about sugar addiction, I think I was getting the hormone kick (dopamine, and serotonin) that I needed to feel good. Still do, but now I can employ adult coping strategies.

It is possible your dd is experiencing sugar cravings that she can't explain or verbalise, all she knows is that eating sugar and starch makes her feel good/better, so she eats it - or tries to restrain herself but finds it very hard.
So I'm not sure what to suggest exactly ,but if I could take time back and change my environment I would have liked not to have a house that contained any real sugary food (particularly if you have no other dc's; you can get your own sweet food while outside the house); a lot more fruit, because it still ticks the boxes; only very plain cereals, no jam, or strongly flavoured crisps; and for me personally, lots and lots of hugs and cuddles as whatever my anxieties were I was attempting to soothe myself with what I had available. Please don't think I'm saying you are not doing enough, I am just trying to take myself back to that time and express what was happening that led me to reach for sugary things constantly.

amigababy Tue 25-Sep-12 20:34:33

A lot of people have posted while I was typing - it took me a long time to type what I put. Please, please be very careful about "toughing up" with her. When I felt my dp's were angry with me or punishing me for being hungry or for feeling things I was too young to control, my anxieties would increase. I would feel it was my fault, that I had done something wrong, and I wanted to self soothe even more so. I felt I was in the wrong somehow just for being me, when I didn't understand what was going on physiologically. Please don't make her feel at fault, if there are changes to be made be surreptitious, calm, don't discuss what you are doing, just change your food philosophy at home without any fuss or emotion so she doesn't catch on that she has food-related problems or that there is some reason for her to be blamed.

Rubirosa Tue 25-Sep-12 20:36:19

I agree with everyone else that it sounds like a lot of "treats" and sweet stuff as rewards - I would also stop buying all the sweeties and biscuits and cake.

As for the dinner whining, when she asks "can I stop now" say yes but she has to wait for everyone else to finish and then nothing else til next meal.

AnxiousElephant Tue 25-Sep-12 21:28:24

Don't use food as treats, it reinforces habits of 'I have been good so now I can have sweets'.
Use stickers, magazines weekly or book/ small toy per week.
Give incentives - if you do not keep asking for sweets you can have this money instead for a treat at the weekend.
Remember excercise - walking, cycling to school if practical. Being at home in the garden if you have one. Clubs where there is activity such as gymnastics, ballet, trampolining, horse-riding and just going for walks as a family. The eating may be boredom.

andruafer Tue 25-Sep-12 21:58:04

Thanks to you alll for your messages.
It has indeed become a war between what DD percieves as healthy and unhealthy food. In fact, she will ask me if any new food I pout in front of her is 'healthy' and if I say that it is...she will pull a face. How on earth do I break this awful mindse that she has about healthy food\? You should see the faces she pulls when I insist that she eats the meals I have made - its pure torture for her to swallow it down.
For those who say the begging for sugary crap may be boredom - I'm not sure about this. What about when her friends are actually here (or she is in their houses?) or at a party? She begs constantly for treats when she is playing. She would rather eat than play and that is something that makes me so so MAD ( I know thats irrational, sorry sad) . I will have gone to the effort of aranging playdate, planning games,...only for dd to moan the whole time that she wants a cake/biscuit/whatever.
amigababy - so much of what you say resonates with me. I was not a slim child, not fat as such, but I guess a bit like DD. I didn't exactly suffer for it in terms of namecalling or whatever, but I was aware of it, and I certainly remember food being on my mind more than it should have done. With DD, it seems to consume her every thought and I just want to help her break that as humanely as possiible. I do admit to losing my temper sometimes over it all, especially the time she snatched food from my plate, or when she wont get off the food table at her OWN party, therefore ignoring her guests. I have during these times asked her if she realises she is being greedy. I hate this word, and it makes me feel so guilty afterwards that I say that to her - but the softly softly approach bounces right off my child, I can tell you.

I have never once in 5 years bought sugary cereals, so with brealfasts this is one meal I have 'got righht' and DD gives me no trouble over. She has breakfast at her childminders mon-fri now and there are no sugary cereals there except for a friday. i wouildnt even have agreed to this, only my dd complained that other children got it and she would be left out. I do have other issues with my childminders philosophy on quantity though, because she believes that if the food is healthy then there should be no restriction. This means that if my 5yo wants to polish off 3 weetabix and 2 slices of brown toast in the morning, my childminder thinks this is fine, and so does DD. I dont want to get shirty with the CM as she is wonderful, so she I've tried to explain to dd she doesnt need that much, but she says she is hungry;/

For lunch, I pack half a sandwich, some berries, a small yoghurt and a sugar free drink. This is what she has every day, with no sugary items or crisps ever.

Dinner, well thats the other story! To answer the question from gloria - she likes spag bol, cotttage pie ( newly discovered!) chicken and noodles, pasta with (lots of) cheese, salmon and potatoes. Not much else tbh

I will take your advice about the treats in the house. I just wish my dd has some sort of 'measure' - you know? Like her friends seeem to have....and that I could offer her the odd chocolate bar without it becoming a 2 hour whine for more. When I have asked dd why she behaves as she does, she says that food is on her mind all the time. God knows how it ended up this way, I think I have somehow contributed to this sad and I need to break it because her relationship with food is unhealthy and I actually cant remember a time when it was any different.

AnxiousElephant Tue 25-Sep-12 22:03:04

You can just call it 'healthy eating which is better for your heart and muscles', rather than going on a diet. You can say that you would rather she didn't have so many sweets because they will rot her teeth, show her a picture if it helps. I find a trip to the dentist and a prompt from him or her helps underline the message.

andruafer Tue 25-Sep-12 22:06:03

sorry about all the typos in my last post!

To answer the question about exercise, dd does a ball class and dancing, plus has joined the brownies, is about to start swimming again and has a bike whioh we try to get out on once a week or so. She is certainly not sporty ( neither am I) but I do make her 'move'.
Also, I weigh my dd and she had put on 5lb after a 2 week trip away with her dad ( we have split). He is actually quite strict about foos, so can't see how this happened, but it has worried me even more because thats a rapid gain for such as small child.

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