Photo courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
One of the biggest frustrations of having a child with food issues is other people’s reactions. My daughter overeats. Even at 3 years home, food is SO incredibly important to her because of her past experiences. She also admits to being an emotional eater. She says that eating sweets (specifically) make her feel better. Currently, she wears a size 3/4 in juniors. She’s not overweight, but she very much overeats. She’s gained about 15lbs in less than 3 years. She needed to gain some of that weight, but if she continues on that trend, she will be obese very soon because she’s only 5’2”. She’s almost 17 so we have about 2 years to help her learn (and decide) to make good food choices regularly before she may choose to take flight and leave the nest. Every time we are out, she tends to take it as an opportunity to overeat by heaping her plate or if she is unable to do that, then heaping the desserts (one of her favorites). If I am not around, she REALLY takes advantage of the situation and overeats. If she’s staying overnight somewhere for a few days, she will over eat at the beginning of the trip, and then attempt to “undo” it by eating nothing or very little the last day or maybe even two days because she knows she’s going to have to go home. And she knows she did not make good food choices while she was making them herself. I think she always feels bad about making poor food choices after the fact, but in the heat of the moment, the want for that yummy food trumps everything else.
When I am with her, I always gently talk about making good food choices asking what she believes would be a moderate amount to eat considering other’s needs, what’s appropriate, etc. If she does overeat before I get the chance to work with her in filling her plate, invariably, someone will diminish what I am attempting to teach her by talking about “how thin she is” or “she can afford it” or “how it’s okay” or whatever comment they believe will help her “feel better”(at least I think that’s what they are doing anyways). I try to gently explain to them that this isn’t about her size. It’s about her choosing to make healthy food choices. If she is not around, I mention to them how if she continues to makes bad food choices, she won’t be this size much longer! Besides, she has low self-esteem due to her past and her gaining weight only feeds into those issues further. She has often talked about how she’s getting “fat” and how certain clothes no longer fit her. I think she finds that frustrating, as do I quite honestly.
Food is a struggle. Food issues do diminish over time for some. For others—like my daughter—they may be a lifelong struggle. And hearing others say “it’s okay to overeat” only causes her to question (consciously or unconsciously) my authority, my knowledge and her trust of what I am trying to teach her. She’s not the most motivated person to change, so any excuse you can give her to not have to change and she will take it! Excusing her overeating is just the “out” she is looking for! So, PLEASE just stop making me out to be the bad guy. Believe it or not, I actually have her best interests at heart. When she hears these comments, she uses them as justification for her behavior. Besides, this is a tender area to walk with a teenage girl and having others discredit me in front of her only compounds our issues. And believe me, we have plenty of issues that we don’t need any additional ones.