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Overweight teen - what to do?

(53 Posts)
Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 09:28:50

Hello there parents

I have a problem and need some advice! My daughter is 14 and is piling on the pounds. She is straining out of size 16 jeans and just seems to be getting bigger and bigger. I am very concerned that it won't be too long before she is going to wake up a very obese and unhappy girl.

We eat normally at home and we encourage her to take exercise, such as walking, instead of taking the bus to school and suchlike. Her sibling and myself and my husband are sort of average really in terms of body shape.

Judging by the amount of sweet wrappers lying around her bedroom, I think her problem lies in the fact that she is spending her money at the corner shop - she must be going through at least a couple of chocolate bars a day. As she earns her own money by babysitting, it isn't as if removing her pocket money will put a stop to it.

At the moment she is pretty cheerful and doesn't seem in the slightest bit bothered that she needs a bigger size every time we go shopping. In other respects, she spends ages on her appearance so I know that this will become important to her...the bigger she gets, the more of a battle it will be for her to control her weight when it becomes an issue.

I really don't know how to approach this without knocking her self confidence. I have tried the healthy eating, healthy lifestyle chats but short of actually saying that she is on a collision course with obesity, I don't know what to do for the best.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 09:32:32

I think you have to start being a bit blunter and tell her "she is on a collision course with obesity". Do you know anyone very overweight who will share photos of themselves at her age (bet they were about her size) - I would but photos from a random stranger probably won;t do the trick.

Or a visit to the GP if they are any good?

tigermoth Wed 23-Jul-08 09:50:49

Sounds like she is comfort eating or testing the limits, now she has the heady experience of having her own money, so sees it as beyond your control.

Can you motivate her to spend her wages on something else? Or save them (or most of them)for something really special (ie say she wants the latest mobile phone, she could put her wages in a money box each week and you could promise to add a percentage to it if she saves up 'x' amount?)

Is she interested in boyfriends yet? Does she like going out with her friends to parties etc? IME these were big motivating factors in girls going on diets when I was at school. So many girls changed shape around the 13 - 16 age due to diet and exercise. I was one of them, going from a size 14 to a size 10. (not that I am a size 10 now!).

Size 16 is the average size for a woman and IMO even as a teenager, she is not automatically overweight. It's not like it is a huge size so you can't get really heavy with her (no pun intended). And lots of the shops she likes (I imagine) will stock things in her size.

If it gets so that clothes do not fit her in her favourite shops, this might be a good motivation for her to diet.

A bit rambling but I think postive motivation is the best way forward, and apart from that you may need to step back a bit from this.

Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 10:07:43

Thanks for your tips Kewcumber - my husband would agree with you wholeheartedly in telling her as it is.

I guess my worry is that I read all those things where women say their self worth/ confidence etc have been destroyed by people passing comment on their appearance. Then again, being obese could well be soul destroying in itself.

What strikes me about my daughter is that she seems so utterly unconcerned - that size is just a label and that a size 16, 18, 20 is just another choice, much like colour, as opposed to being an indication of one's actual weight . I remember as a teenager being mortified if a size 10 didn't fit me and I needed a 12..

One of the problems does seem to be that some of her friends are not exactly stick insects either....the idea that obesity is catching is very true. If her friends all have their stomachs hanging over their jeans even before they've popped a couple of sprogs out (!), then it becomes the norm. Also, outsize fashion has become much trendier now so it's not as if you're consigned to old lady elasticated slacks once you hit a size 16.

I do have a relative who battled for years to get her weight under control. I'll have a chat with her and ask how she would have wanted her parents to have dealt with her weight issues as a teenager.

fembear Wed 23-Jul-08 10:11:27

Have you read The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet? It is a book by Dr Rachael and Dr Richard Heller, pub Vermillion ISBN 0-09185-375-3.

Its basic premise is that a certain percentage of the population has a junkie's response to carbohydrates (eg chocolate and sweets!) - they get a buzz out of them and are addicted to them. Do you think that this applies to your DD? If she understands her impulses and uses Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to beat them then she may get somewhere.

Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 10:15:39

Tigermoth, just seen your post ...

I'd say she's a couple of stone overweight for her age...size 16 is certainly not massive but on a fourteen year old...

Yes, the saving up bit sounds like a good idea. I've started to give her an allowance and she is on the whole pretty good with money so if she wants a higher spec pc, maybe we can do a deal.

Maybe like you say, once boys feature more on the horizon, the weight will drop off and then all I have to worry about is the drink, drugs, fags, stds, and becoming a granny prematurely!

Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 10:19:24

Fembear - this sounds like my dd to a T. She once went away on holiday for three weeks with relatives and came back 4 kilos heavier because she spent the entire time with unrestricted access to hydrogenated vegetable fat. I will buy the book.

witchandchips Wed 23-Jul-08 10:20:11

Is she bored? Could you encourage her to do something in her spare time that would leave less space for comfort eating or eating through boredom. Early teens are really hard for girls as they are too old to "play" but may not be ready to be proper grownups. There is not a lot else they can do if they are not sporty or not into horses

Slouchy Wed 23-Jul-08 10:25:27

Activity is often the key. Is there an activity she enjoys that you can encourage her to take more seriously - or even do with her? Something like a tennis club/netball team/swimming/riding etc? Or maybe challenge her to do next year's Race for Life with you? and train together?

Having worked with teens for 10 years, I'm not sure that telling her she is fat (or words to that effect) will help her, actually. Although I like the idea of chatting to your relative about how she woud have liked it handled. Good luck.

Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 10:30:14

Witchandchips - not sure that she's doing it out of boredom as she's procuring her chocolate to and from school when she's in a gaggle with all her mates.

I don't buy crisps or chocolate so there is rarely anything exciting to eat..which actually is another thing I was thinking about. We just have proper meals at home and if someone wants a snack, then they have to have a piece of toast or an apple or a bowl of cereal...sometimes flapjack or a cake but rarely.

Maybe I should buy more treats and then she won't feel the urge to stuff her face when she is out of the house? Or maybe she will still stuff her face, even if she is getting some at home as well?


Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 10:37:09

Slouchy - yes, she is starting her Duke of Edinburgh awards so there will be an exercise element. On the whole though, it is not something she enjoys, and because she is overweight, she is unfit and tends to get a stitch or become out of breath.

I did think that I would see if she would come to Yoga or Pilates with me, just so that she would become more body aware and then take it from there.

Training for the Race for Life would be a very good thing to aim for - I can't see her running for a bus without whingeing so it would be a fantastic goal on many levels if we could do it next year.

tigermoth Wed 23-Jul-08 10:56:59

Very difficult to know what to do if she is buying chocalate with all her friends. My 14 year old son is prone to do this, too, so I try to limit what spending money he has at school - but it is not always effective as even the odd £1.00 can buy quite a lot! Do tell me if you find a good solution.

Agree with the suggestion to get her interested in something active. Would she be keen on dancing? As well as helping her get fit, this might motivate her to watch her shape. Also, by getting her away from her present friends she might get in a crowd (ie dancers?) who think its uncool to pig out on chocolate.

fembear Wed 23-Jul-08 10:57:45

Training together for Race for Life sounds great. Might have even more chance of sucess if it also includes some of her mates (and their mums?).

Slouchy Wed 23-Jul-08 11:00:26

Ooh, how about you going together to a salsa class or rock and roll dancing?

hanaflower Wed 23-Jul-08 11:02:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

witchandchips Wed 23-Jul-08 11:02:54

If she is doing Duke of Edinburgh, perhaps going on a few long walks might be a good way to start getting a bit fitter. Are there any good hills near you?

abouteve Wed 23-Jul-08 11:04:30

I do empathise with you.

I'd try to tell her in a way that will encourage her rather than put her down. The way I worded it to my DD is 'you had a lovely figure when you weighed a little less'. Gawd even that sounds callous. In our case it has encouraged her to see chocolate bars and cakes as treats rather than part of an everyday diet.

Also encourage more activity. Now that the holidays are here I suggest going out for a walk each day.

It is so difficult to know how to deal with this. Then I think well it's up to them ultimately. They are old enough to decide what they do and don't eat.

hanaflower Wed 23-Jul-08 11:19:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 11:52:03

I disagree with Tigermoth that its normal to be a 16. It is if you are a grown woman but those of us who have weight issues will all know that unless you get a grip early there is only one direction her weight will go.

I was a size 10/12 at her age and put on about 7lbs a year every year and 20 years later I'm a size 26.

Its tough because at 14 you don't think you will ever be that size - I never did. But she is never likely to be more active and have a higher metabolism than she does now.

I don;t think you need to be rude insulting or undermining to talk to her about your concerns for her weight but I do think if you know anyone who has weight problmes themselves it may be more effective coming from them.

Agree with Slouchy that activity is the key (as well as the promise of "boys"). Swimming is good as you can hide yourself in the water... or gorwn up activities that appeal to most teenagers need to be treated as an adult like a local aerobics class.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 11:57:21

abouteve - 'you had a lovely figure when you weighed a little less' my mother said somethign similar to me when I was about 15 and it left me with a complete complex about my size and resulted in a spiralling diet/binge approach to food for many many year which (along with other unhealthy food issues I have) left me significantly overweight.

The main difference is that I was a very normal size 12 at the time sad

Moral : Don't tell your daughters they aren't lovely as they are and don't tell them they're overweight when they're not.

tigermoth Wed 23-Jul-08 11:59:57

I think it also depends on height and build, kewcumber. IMO a tall size 16 teen could be quite a healthy size. But the OP later said their dd was about 2 stone overweight so that is a bit different.

I do know of plenty of people who were on the plump side in their teens, but are now no plump - or have maintained their a size 16-ish shape for many years into adulthood.

My best friend was a size 6 as a 14 year old and was small right up to her thirties, but is now has weight induced diabetes and is several sizes bigger than her ideal weight.

IME your teenager shape is far from an automatic indicator of your adult shape.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 12:04:51

well I'm 5'9" and was aboput 5'8" at 15 so at size 12 I was really quite slim but I do see what you mean.

Even if there is a chance that she might slim down, I don;t think I could ignore the significant probability that she won;t. The health issues of being overweight for most of yoru adult life are significant and if she's already unfit "she is unfit and tends to get a stitch or become out of breath." then that would worry me.

Claudia40 Wed 23-Jul-08 12:05:26

Thanks gals for the advice...I think Abouteve sort of sums it up when she says it is ultimately her decision and she is old enough to understand that there is a direct corrolation between what goes in and what stays on. If you're happy being fat then I guess that's fine, but I don't think anyone really is. I put on quite a bit of weight aftermy first child and I know how miserable it made me and what a slog it was to lose it. I just want to save her from that struggle. She is so young and it's such a shame because if she continues on this path, and then goes on to have a couple of kids, she really will be morbidly obese.

She doesn't show any interest in dancing and she hates going for walks. She and her friends seem happy to socialize via MSN - they don't even want to (or their parents won't let them) mooch around town together.

I have said things like 'You're going to have to be a bit careful don't want to be getting any bigger', but it's just water off a duck's back.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 12:06:31

its not just the weight its the general activity/fitness level. I was a very fit size 16 in my early 20's and would have been very happy to be that size as I thought I was quite healthy. I could play squash 3 times a week and walk for hours. Claudia's daughter doesn't sound like that.

Kewcumber Wed 23-Jul-08 12:08:56

"she is old enough to understand that there is a direct corrolation between what goes in and what stays on" - I don't agree most 14 year olds don;t think they're going to become hugely overweight just by overeating a little extra over a long period.

Its tough but I would try hard - I wouldn;t wish my weight on any daughter of mine if there was anything I could do.

Have you tried the "healthy girls with good skin and nice figures get the best boys" approach?

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