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Food glorious food... dysfunctional parental relationship with food being passed on to children. How to handle sensitively?

(6 Posts)
DrCaligari Sun 27-Nov-16 09:51:12

This is part "grr" and part plea for advice.

My exh is obese. He is 'addicted' to sugar (I say 'addicted' not because I'm minimising it, but because he doesn't have an official addiction). He craves it, he is cross and grumpy without it, he gets horrendous headaches if he doesn't have it, he shakes etc. It always concerned me and he showed signs of being pre-diabetic for years.

He 'self medicates' with sugar, he rewards himself with sugar, he commiserates with sugar, if he's too tired to cook/misses a meal, he substitutes with sugar... : usually bottles of coke, several chocolate bars, bags/tubs of sugar coated fizzy sweets.

I know he has a dysfunctional relationship with food (in general) and I also know where it came from. That's not what I'm here for. He knows it too. And last year he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which scared him and shocked him. He cut out all sugar immediately and he lost weight (again) in a very short time frame (again).

What concerns me is that he is recreating these behaviours and establishing this relationship with food with the children when they are with him. Even when he is on a 'no sugar' thing, he still buys an awful lot of it for them. He has a girlfriend, but she is also obese and with similar eating habits (according to the children) so there's no regulation coming from her either. This is not a criticism or a judgement of their choices. I don't understand it, but it's up to them.

The children find it hard to turn down all the sweets and fizzy drinks when they are with him because a) it's provided, b) they're children and it's nice, c) he takes it as a personal criticism if they turn it down because they don't fancy it or because they've had enough because he knows it's not good really and it just holds a mirror up to him.

He buys them so much of it that they can't possibly eat it in a weekend, and then he sends it home with them and ends up in their bedrooms in their bags.

It concerns me because I have no issues around food at all. I very much take an "everything in moderation" approach so this is not about me being angry that he is feeding them sweets when I don't allow it, and it's not a case of him feeling he needs to make up for my lack of sweet/sugar provision.

He well understands the health concerns around sugar and he is now living it.

His weight is an issue for him. I know this. He yoyo diets noticeably. I just don't understand why he is doing this to the children too when it is such a problem for him and he understands it.

He wants to treat them. I get that. He wants to make them happy. I get that. He wants to show them that he loves them. I get that too. But it really concerns me that he is doing it with food in general and sugar in specific.

We've talked about it and he completely agrees with me. It improves for a couple of weeks and then it starts again. I don't want to upset or offend him but the children spend a fair bit of time with him and even they are commenting that it's too much but they don't want to hurt his feelings.

Any advice?

DrCaligari Sun 27-Nov-16 09:55:35

Oh and just for clarification, the weight he lost when he was first diagnosed and the sugar amnesty that occurred didn't last.

He has now put the weight back on and his diet is back to the way it was.

doji Sun 27-Nov-16 10:13:51

Can you try and help him redirect the buying of stuff to particular magazines/collectibles/games/sports gear/whatever the kids like? He obviously feels compelled to try and buy their love, so it may be easier to redirect the behaviour than completely stop it

Bluetrews25 Sun 27-Nov-16 10:14:11

Are they old enough to give him a bit of tough love?
'Dad! We'll end up diabetics if we have that! Come on, let's go for a walk in the park / play a board game / paint the picture instead'

If the only way he knows how to interact with the DCs is through feeding them, he needs to have alternatives suggested.

DrCaligari Sun 27-Nov-16 10:28:50

Thanks for the suggestions.

doji I've tried that. Our daughter ended up with every available 'take apart rubber' and shed loads of stationery and our son ended up with video games/T shirts, but the sweet/sugar buying didn't stop, these other things just ended up happening as well!

It's more about the 'treating' rather than buying their love. Although there is a small element of that. He had quite a dysfunctional upbringing where he had very little. His parents were (still are) high functioning alcoholics and there was never anything nice in the house. Or there was, and there would be a lot of it, but there'd be no essentials. So he got a Saturday job so he could buy milk and bread for the family.

Blue They do try that but he takes it as criticism and either gets cross at them for being ungrateful or "looks sad". He doesn't do board games, but he will play video games with them. He won't take them to the park (the oldest is late teens now, but the youngest is 11) because he really doesn't want to do anything physical. If there is anything other than blue sky and sunshine, he won't take them out in case it rains.

They find it very frustrating. The sugar thing is a problem for me because of the health implications, but he does struggle elsewhere too.

The thing is, I know he loves them. I know that and I don't want him to feel bad. But he doesn't really know what to do with them. He's struggling with them growing up and having their own ideas about things in general. He has a very responsible job and is the 'decision maker' at work. He's not very good at listening to input from other people. He takes it as criticism and he doesn't like to be criticised.

I think that buying them sweets and coke and stuff like that is easy as much as anything. And it makes him happy, so why wouldn't it make them happy? But it's not a recent thing, it's always been the case.

Porpoises Sun 27-Nov-16 18:58:54

Sounds tough. Very difficult to solve as it is essentially a mental health problem - his childhood messed him up, and he managed to avoid alcoholism but ended up with another addiction instead. Has he ever been to counselling, and would he consider it?

I guess the kids could bring it home and then get rid of it / put in the food bank donation point. But it might feel horrible for them to lie to their dad.

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