“Yikes! My daughter wants to lose weight!”

No, I am not talking about anyone who is consulting with me, I am talking about my oldest daughter, now a teenager, who is asking me to help her control her eating. This as you might imagine, goes so against the grain of how I have raised her and how non-controlling I try to be with my kids and food. But here is the beauty and joke of course of parenting: It is not about us. We really do have to continue to separate out our needs from those of our children, and now my 13, soon to be 14 year old daughter is asking for me to help her stop some of what she feels to be is overeating.

Trained and working in the field of eating disorders, I of course am terrified that she will try to restrict her food intake too much and develop either an ongoing restrictive attitude, (anorexia) or deprive herself and then overeat on foods she loves and think she needs to over restrict again. Even if a full blown eating disorder doesn’t develop, I know full well the dangers of dieting and just even the head set of feeling the need to restrict your food intake.

Despite my initial efforts to avoid this job she seems to want and need me to take on, (helping her to structure herself and become more conscious of her eating when she is not hungry,) she persists. She knows she is asking me for help and I can see that my job as a parent, is to see what she needs. To be flexible and not rigid in my parenting style. To know that one kid might need something from me, and to be parented in one way, and the other will have a different personality and need other things. And most importantly, that it is my job to challenge myself, to ‘parent outside the box’, so to speak, the box that I have because they are my biases, needs, wishes, and to really and truly see what she needs, separate from me.

So I forge ahead. Trepidatiously, but I give her what she asks of me. She asks me to help her stop eating after a nice meal, when her mouth hasn’t flipped the ‘off switch’ yet, and she is at risk for eating more and more. I do this. I encourage her to wait. I remind her that in fact she did have a good meal and her mouth is probably just stimulated and she is in the habit of eating more because it is a habit, and whatever cravings she is having, will go away if she tries to pull herself away from the food after eating dinner. To make a rule for herself to wait until the next day for a few nights. To really and truly feed herself well, with all she knows about nutrition and not to deprive herself too much, but to eat more consciously. Be aware of the bites she takes which are not motivated by hunger, but rather by habit, or agitation. Nervousness. Boredom. Feeling down. Whatever.

She tells me I should write a book. I laugh.

One Response to ““Yikes! My daughter wants to lose weight!””

  1. Maria on 10 Mar 2008 at 10:59 am

    I too am terrified that my children will develop eating disorders and, therefore, am anxious when speaking to them about limiting their food intake. Particularly with my 13-year-old son. More often than not, he’s always hungry. When is it a growing spurt? Is it just habit eating as you mention? Is it hormonal? (my daughter eats more when she’s PMS). There seems to be more ‘out there’ regarding girls, do the same techniques/rules apply to boys as well? Thank-you.

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