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josrific's avatar

How to help daughter with weight issues?

Asked by josrific (2575points) February 16th, 2011

I admit, I am NOT at a healthy weight, 107lbs over a not healthy weight. But I’m very concerned for my daughter.

She’s 12 and 5’6”. She’s taken after my side of the family so she has a bulky frame. In May 2010 she weighed 120lbs. She just weighed herself again just last week and she is 198lbs. She is absolutely devastated! She has no clue how she gained 70lbs in less than a year. And yes we weighed again to check. She doesn’t think she’s beautiful, which trust me she is, and she wears clothes in a way to hide herself. I asked her if she stress eats, she doesn’t know, I asked her if she gets enough water, she doesn’t keep track. She just said she’s constantly hungry.

I know that with me being obese and having a severely low self esteem doesn’t help me with trying to help her. How can I change her/our diet without her feeling suddenly starved and deprived? When you were a tween and if you were larger, how did you handle it? Momma needs help here!

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20 Answers

chyna's avatar

That seems like a huge weight gain for just one year. I would suggest you take her to a doctor first to determine if there is a medical reason for that much of a gain. Then the doctor will put her on a diet if there is no medical reason.

ninjacolin's avatar

Yes do the doctor thing.

Assuming however that it’s nothing seriously medical (hoping for the best, but please do go to the doctor) I often wonder why obese parents allow their kids to become obese. Is it that they think it’s a fine way to live? Maybe it’s because they don’t know the benefits of superior health just from not really having access/focus on it?

I would really like to know @dubsrayboo. Why did you allow this to happen?
And I’m not trying to accuse you of anything, I just think it’s important to consider and for other families to consider. Why would you allow your daughter to eat as much as she wants and why haven’t you been encouraging her to do more physically? What has been going on in the past few years that you couldn’t prevent this from happening?

That’s all I can offer towards your question: It would really be worth your time to examine what you’ve been doing wrong as a parent to have contributed to this problem so that you can be sure to identify and eliminate such behavior in the future.

tedibear's avatar

First things first, take her to the doctor to check for possible thyroid problems or other issues that may have led to her weight gain since May. I only mention thyroid as one possible issue. I’m not a doctor and cannot say what else might be happening.

Once she is cleared for health problems, this is the time for both of you to work together. You can be each others’ best cheerleaders and helpers if you remember one thing: don’t nag. It doesn’t work.

Now is the time to start throwing out any junk food in the house. And I mean throw it out. People need food to survive, but they don’t need corn chips. So if there are others in the house who may complain that there are no snacks need to do one of two things:

1.) Understand that in your house, fruit, low-fat cheese & yogurt, nuts and vegetables are now the available snacks.
2.) They can go to the convenience store and buy a single size snack to eat. And it needs to not go in the common food area.

The goal here is not to deny others in your house, but to help to remove some of the temptations for you and your daughter.

If the two of you don’t cook together, now is the time to start. Baking or poaching boneless, skinless chicken breasts or some salmon is quite easy. Get some whole grain pasta and make marinara together. Steam some brown rice and serve it with a chicken and veggie stir-fry. Or just a veggie stir-fry for that matter! Can’t live without sausage? You can get turkey or chicken sausage that is lower in fat. But read the label! In fact, start reading all of the labels on the foods that you buy. These are just some suggestions. I really believe that people know what foods are good for them, they just make choices that aren’t right for them because it seems easier to grab a greasy fast food meal than to cook something. And if time is an issue, look into cooking with a crock-pot. Or cook a lot on the weekend and freeze your meals.

Teach yourselves about portion size. Do you know what is considered a “portion” of various foods? Maybe that’s a project for your daughter – find out what a “serving” really is. There are many online resources, as well as books in the library that should help.

Water is important – make it your primary beverage. Ditch the soda, including diet.

The other thing that will help you both is to track your food. I find tracking online is easiest for me. There are several websites where you can do this.

Also, start moving. Whether you go for walks, do a workout DVD, whatever, you need to move. This one you don’t have to do together. She might be embarrassed to do this with you. I would have been when I was 12.

And mom, if you’re an emotional eater, I suggest that you look into buying “The Food and Feelings Workbook,” by Karen Koenig. It’s about $13 on amazon.

josrific's avatar

@ninjacolin first me. I had obese parents but I had a grandmother that constantly nit picked my looks and put the fear of God in me about becoming obese. Plus being a bigger grade schooler didn’t help at all. I stayed at a healthy weight from Jr. High through my second child then I got sick. I was diagnosed with Bipolar type 1. I was given so many meds that in a year I went from 170ish to 283lbs. I’m now 257lbs. 5 years later, it’s extremely hard to loose weight when on psychiatric medication, especially anti-psychotics.

You know, I’m surprised this happened myself. We go on bike rides and we swim together (her and her sister and I). Yes they love the Wii and the computers and reading books. I think what might have happened is stress and portion control. Obesity is genetic also, so for some it’s harder to fight, but I know that the fight is worth it. But also in the past year her dad has been in the hospital three times and I have been in the hospital once. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s stress eating, which I do also.

mrrich724's avatar

I think the family has to make a change, not just her. I know I am generalizing, but am I wrong when I say that it’s not uncommon to see someone’s (who’s heavy) family, to see that they are all overweight. I was VERY close to my old neighbors, and the whole family (except the father) was obese.

What one unhealthy mother (or father, or whoever) puts in the fridge and makes available, and establishes as the norm for themself, is also making that normal and available to her children.

I think it would help if you focused on the group, and not just her.

You can motivate each other! But I think it would be alot more difficult for her to make the necessary lifestyle changes if she lives in your house, and you aren’t making those same changes.

Buttonstc's avatar

I’m curious as to why you’d be asking her why she has gained this much weight? How on earth should she know ? She’s a child.

The majority of the food available to an 11 yr old child is controlled by the parent.

Anyhow, you have a wonderful opportunity to parent by example. She is far more likely to do what you do rather than what you say she should do.

With the two of you doing this together, it’s a great opportunity to encourage each other.

But it will take more than just a diet. It will mean a total planned lifestyle change which involves regular exercise as well. If you’re only focused on the number of pounds that’s really self defeating in the long term.

While it’s true that both of you may have what is termed a “weight-loss resistant profile” biologically and otherwise, it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure.

Whatever you do, avoid fad diets like the plague. You need something well balanced that you can use for a lifetime.

Weight watchers is one example of that. Another well balanced type of approach is outlined in a book written by Phil McGraw. It’s a good well balanced guide which has lots of really solid information.

I wish you and your daughter the best. It’s a daunting journey but a worthwhile one. Focus more on building your health for life than on just dropping pounds. You want any weight loss to be long lasting rather than the yo yo effect.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Are you saying from May of 2010 until now she never once got on a scale? You didn’t notice her clothes were getting tight and needed to be replaced? She is 12! You are the parent!
You should have taken her to the doctor 40 pounds ago. Do it! Statistically the odds are small that it is thyroid. The most likely cause is simple – eating too much and exercising too little.
But you knew that already. Fix it.

josrific's avatar

@worriedguy I’ve already been told that I’m a bad parent about this, I really don’t need you rubbing salt into the open wound.

This is what has happened this last year. I have been sick, very unstable, but always there for my girls. My husband went into the hospital in June and we nearly lost him and he had major surgery. He was there for 10 days. My daughter asked me if I had any pants that she could wear. I did, and I didn’t think anything of it. My husband went into the hospital again for complications and was there for 6 days. Both girls started getting needy and in my mental state, did everything that I could to help comfort them. August I was admitted into psych ward because of my bipolar. Got stabilized and came home 7 days later. November my husband goes back into the hospital because another complication came up. He was there 4 days.

I’m sorry that during the year that my daughter gained so much weight I wasn’t the perfect parent that would notice right away. With all that crap happening we didn’t even think about scales and calories! There, that’s out, now lets have the help and constructive criticism occur.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think you and your daughter should start on a walk run program. You can find them in the beginners pages of

Exercise is good for your body and your mind. You would both benefit from the together time in the fresh air. And you would hopefully slowly regain your physical health. is a wealth of information for all sorts of healthy life styles.

There is also a site called where you and your daughter could keep track of your progress and routes.

I think anything that makes exercise interesting is good. This way you would not be focusing on what you have done wrong and instead could concentrate on what you are doing right.

The first step is the hardest and that is the one out the door in the rain, snow, whatever, but you always feel so proud and good when you get back home.

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I agree about taking her to the doctor first. However, even if she has a thyroid problem, I still think this should be a family project. You also mentioned your husband being ill. I really good nutritious ‘diet’ would probably be beneficial to him as well. You did not mention your other daughter’s weight, but even if she is perfectly average in that regard good wholesome food would only be an extra benefit.

I put diet in quotes because I am talking about the type and quantity of food rather than suggesting a fad course of action. You do not mention what you all eat regularly and some assumptions have been made. I suggest getting rid of any soda or sugary drinks including kool-aid. I do not keep this stuff in my house unless it is for a particular purpose i.e. party or dessert (like root beer float). Plenty of empty calories come from these items. Don’t buy chips or cookies except for special occasions. If you purchase pre-made meals, they have a lot of healthy alternatives in the frozen food section which include a lot of vegetables. If you do the cooking yourself, it is usually the stuff which is added like sour cream, mayo, etc. which contains the most fat and calories. Other items like spices can be used to add flavor instead. They have really good whole grain pasta and bread available now.

Many people have mentioned exercise and that is something that should also be added. Riding bikes, walking, swimming are all good places to start. You could make this a family or mother and daughter activity.

You have mentioned your own health problem so obviously you do not want to make this transition too stressful on yourself or you are more likely to have more difficulty. If you can create a menu on your own of healthy food, great. Create a weekly menu, make a list and go shopping with that. If you cannot, weight watchers does have really helpful online tools but you have to subscribe. Make it about changing your lifestyle to a healthy one versus completely focusing on the goal of losing weight right now.

KayS's avatar

My son was over weight from 4th grade to 8th grade. He is now in college and is not over weight. We are not “diet people,” but he tried the Atkins Diet. It is 3 weeks or so of a real change to the diet, but is simple to do. After those weeks you can begin phasing foods back in. The focus is on removing carbs and sugars. I remember removing soda, bread, and pasta. I think the biggest change came from removing soda!!! To this day we all stay away from it. Good luck. Your daughter will most likely have better results if you do this together. I’m just a stay at home Mom, I only have my experience to share. Look up the Atkins Diet and see what you think.

Kardamom's avatar

It sounds like your daughter’s weight gain was caused by her being worried sick about her parents. She may also have some type of medical condition that caused her to gain weight quickly over a short period of time. You should definitely take her to a doctor, but explain everything to the doctor, not just the weight gain, but let them know that your daughter has been under a lot of stress because of you and your husband’s illnesses and ask him if he/she can refer you to a family therapist to help you deal with all of the stress. And also ask if he/she can refer you to a nutritionist.

Is your husband OK now? Is he able to be in the home to take care of your daughter? What about you? Are you stable and regularly taking your meds for your bi-polar? Is it working and do you see any kind of therapist? The reason I am asking this is because if you and your husband are not able to care for your daughter and provide a healthy, stable home for her right now, you might want to let your daughter live with friends or relatives temporarily until things are more stable at home.

If things are OK at home now, the two of you should start on a lifelong healthy living project. Don’t use the word diet. You don’t want to have her and you lose weight, then go back to the way you were living and gain it all back. What and how you’ve been eating (and probably the lack of exercise) and maybe un-diagnosed illness is what has been causing you both to be overweight. So after you’ve gone to the doctor to see if your daughter has anything like a thyroid problem or anything else that has caused her to gain so much weight, you both need to change your habits. That is why it is important for you to see a nutritionist. The nutritionist can tell you exactly what, and how much you should be eating.

The hard part will be for you to clear out your pantry and refrigerator of all of the things that you should not eat (most likely foods that have too much fat, sugar and salt, and un-necessary chemicals and foods that do not have enough good protein and fiber and foods that are not nutrient dense). The nutritionist can help you to identify which foods are good and which ones are bad. Make sure that the doctor tests your daughter for diabetes, the foods that she needs will be very different if she has diabetes than if she does not.

The next thing you will have to do is come up with an every day exercise plan. Does your daughter’s school have a physical education program? Most do, but they are usually not enough and may not have enough aerobic exercise or weight training. Check with the doctor first to see if exercise will be safe for you and her (precluding some type of medical problem). Walking, swimming, low impact aerobics, dance mixed with weight training are your best bets. If you don’t want to or can’t join a gym, just start walking every day for 15 minutes for the first week or 2, then up it to 30 for the next month, then up it to an hour and start increasing the pace. Make sure you both have a decent pair of walking shoes and find a good place to walk that is safe and free from obstacles (like cars and potholes). You can get a good pedometer at Target or Walmart for about 10 to 15 bucks so you can check your mileage.

You can also get some small free weights at Target or Walmart, or you can start out by using canned food from your pantry.

Seeing the doctor first and sorting out what the actual cause(s) are for both you and your daughter. It sounds like some family therapy would be a good idea for all of you to deal with all of the anxiety surrounding the medical issues, and just for the fact that her self esteem has been dealt a blow because of the weight gain. They can also teach you techniques for how to work as a team and how to avoid pitfalls.

Don’t just go on any old website to get your nutrition plans. Make sure that they are legitimate sites (and ask your doctor about some good ones). The Mayo clinic, The American Heart Association, The American Cancer Society, Loma Linda Hospital, The American Diabetes Association and the like will all have sections about healthy eating plans. Check them out. Good luck and please check in with us to let us know how you guys are doing. : )

josrific's avatar

@Kardamom Just to let you know that both my husband and I are stable and we’re doing well in supporting the children. I’ll make an appointment for her next week. I just got blood work done so I’m in the clear.

Kardamom's avatar

@dubsrayboo That’s good to hear. Please let us know how the doctor’s visit goes. I wish you all the best of luck. It sounds like you all have been through a lot of painful and scary situations. I hope you have some extended family and other support with friends too. You shouldn’t have to go through all of this alone.

SpatzieLover's avatar

Knowing that you also have a daughter with Asperger’s, this is an issue of major importance for your family.

In our AS home we have very specific food rules:
One, we only shop at Whole Foods or similar grocery stores.
Two, we only buy healthier junk food.
Three, healthy food MUST be eaten prior to eating said healthy junk food
Four, no sitting to watch TV or play a video game unless at least ½ an hour of exercise has been had
Five, Veggies first then protein/dinner. (If veggies aren’t regularly being eaten by everyone in your home, then my suggestion is to invest in a good juicer and use it three times daily)

It’s time to shift your entire household for the health and well being of your dear girls.

josrific's avatar

My girl is in the clear health wise. And according to her chart she gained that weight in over 2 years, not less than one. All of you have given great advise. Thanks!

snowberry's avatar

I will say that if she’s hungry, she needs to meet her nutritional needs, but fill up on low calorie foods that she likes. If she’s into chips, sweets, and so forth. that’s a problem. Being constantly hungry is an issue you need to talk over with a doctor.

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