Weighing In On Weight

Dear Dr. Darcy:

My daughter is a little overweight.  Let me back up – she’s 15 years old and she was a late bloomer so she only really hit puberty this summer.  One of the reasons that she’s a late bloomer is because she’s a very competitive dancer and like most athletes, the amount of training that she does likely delayed her period.

She’s not terribly overweight though.  Maybe just 5-10 pounds.  But she wants to get into a Manhattan summer dance program next year and I’m concerned that the weight will get in her way.  We don’t want her to have another summer at home doing nothing (like this summer).  I’ve read that you are or were a dancer, so you know how essential a girl’s weight is on her career.  How much assistance should I be giving her in losing the weight?

ANSWER

None.  Give the daughter no assistance in losing weight.  There isn’t an adolescent girl in America who is unaware of her weight, along with all the potential downfalls of it.  If you draw attention to it (and I suspect you already have), you risk provoking a lifetime of body image and/or eating issues.

15 year-olds are still growing so it’s impossible to judge what her weight will look like when she’s reached her final height. And if she just got her period this summer, we don’t even know where her weight will fall once her hormones regulate.  Putting her on a weight loss program at her age would be like encouraging her to get cosmetic surgery at her age – we don’t know what her body will look like when it’s done developing.

If everything I’ve said so far isn’t enough to convince you that the risks of micromanaging your daughter’s BMI far outweigh any gains in helping her lose weight, let this be the final point that you walk away with:  This issue is not your daughter’s - it’s yours. She’s not complaining about her weight – you are.  She’s not thinking about her next summer – you are.  She doesn’t see a correlation between spending this summer at home and having gained weight – you do.  You’ve got some serious enmeshment issues with her and if you don’t give her some space, you’re going to have much bigger battles than her weight over the next few years.

Your daughter can still be a dancer without being a stick figure.  By far, the best dancers in my school are the curvy ones, and I train with the best in New York City.  So stop veiling your need for perfection through being supportive of her chosen career, as it remains unclear to me whether your daughter was even given the freedom to choose dance.

Writer's Stats: Female, heterosexual.