wrote in one woman, after reading that my daughter had asked me to help her decrease her eating. She says that she is also worried about ‘creating an eating disorder’ but is not sure whether with her 13 year old son being always hungry, it is normal, when is it overeating, habit eating, or truly due to the growth spurts that boys and girls go through?
I have mainly two things to say regarding this issue, coming from my own experience and that of other parents:
1) Kids who are going through, or about to go through puberty, depending on where they are at, they often gain weight. Girls, before they get their periods, can often appear ‘chunkier’ as their bodies prepare to menstruate. (Nutritionists say that they get the most referrals of girls when they are age 8-12 from anxious parents.)
Boys, before they go through their growth spurt, and actually grow taller, can also get chunkier. My rule of thumb has always been to not look too hard at my kids’ bodies and the changes they go through, but rather pay attention to their eating habits.
2) Boys frequently during their teenage years, seem to have an endless appetite. If they are overweight however, they aren’t burning it off, and it is possible that they are getting into the ‘habit’ of eating for the sake of other reasons than hunger. You can tell if it seems that they are eating for recreational purposes, or just getting into a habit of overeating, and simply remind them, that it seems they have had enough. Make sure they are getting enough protein, to help the muscle mass that they are growing, (it also helps keep blood sugars level), and remind them to check with themselves to see if they are eating because it tastes good, or because they are truly hungry. Give them the skill of WAITING’ to see if in a half hour they are still hungry. If so, they should eat more food. (Food that fuels their body and muscles, not just junk or sugar, that is for happy eating!)
Hunger in boys is not usually driven by hormones, (it certainly can be in girls, right? PMS and all of that), but often is driven by biology’s push toward growth. Even if they aren’t growing taller right away, they are probably about to. But it is always good to arm kids with the tools to be conscious about their eating.
Don’t let your fear of creating an eating disorder render you powerless: You are still their parents and can remind them how to take good care of themselves. Teaching them good eating habits is not just about the nutrition and providing them with healthy options, you can teach them to pay attention to their bodies and their behaviors with food.
I was nervous the other day when my daughter asked me for more direct help so that she could break some of her habit of recreational eating, as I call it, out of boredom, nerves, whatever; that repetitive habit of reaching for food that can create a pattern. She ended up feeling empowered as she said that it did the trick to help break a cycle she felt had started up. I was worried because I keep saying: “You don’t have to lose weight!” but she just wanted some help so that she could begin to build a skill on her own, and it seemed to do the trick. She is still eating, not depriving herself, and doesn’t seem overburdened or restrictive.
It is all about tools; one more in the toolbox can’t hurt.