Dear Dr. Darcy:
My 10-year old daughter just went to the doctor for a checkup so that she can play her sport at school. The doctor told me that she is roughly 50 pounds overweight. Food has been a big issue with her since she was a toddler. She and I have fought over this issue endlessly and in the last 6 months, I’ve decided to drop it – let it go – pick my battles. It’s not my body, and she’s proven to me that I can’t control her. So now what do I do? My doctor says that she must lose weight because she’s actually morbidly obese for her age and height. Some of it is genetic (my husband’s side of the family runs large) so I’m not sure how much change is reasonable to expect.
Question: Your daughter has been battling bulge since she was a toddler? Who do you think is responsible for that? Who bought the food that made her fat? Who brought it into the home? Why is she exposed to food (and quantities) that have rendered her morbidly obese?
Look, I’m sure you tried to fix this when you realized it was a problem…But the bottom line is that your child is looking to your eating habits to learn what normal is. You can’t behave one way and expect your child to behave another. She’s learning from you. And at the risk of sounding hateful, I’m going to say that you’re probably not on the thin end of the spectrum either. Do as I say ~ not as I do does NOT work with kids. They follow our lead. And by the time you realized you had a problem on your hands, it was too late. Her eating habits were formed. Her brain was already programmed to crave white flours, white sugars, and high fat foods. And her stomach was already larger than it should have been from inappropriate quantities of food, and so it takes more food for her to feel full than it should.
You are right to stop battling her. Her body size is up to her. But believe me, she’s not happy at that weight. She just doesn’t have the ability to say no when there are boxes of cookies in the kitchen cabinet. So what should you do? Toss the fucking cookies.
That’s right. Your family needs a complete overhaul – including you. Throw out all the junk, and you know what constitutes junk. Replace it with whole foods, unrefined sugars and whole wheat products. Stop buying sweets. Start putting out bowls of fruit and nuts. Get rid of the soda, even diet soda. Get a water cooler and make drinking water the new family norm. And whatever sport your daughter is in, look for ways to expand her participation in it. If she’s currently involved in school, sign her up for the town recreational team and find her a camp next summer that specializes in that sport. But I’m telling you right now: If you’re hoping to change your daughter without changing the eating habits of the entire family, you’re kidding yourself. It will never work. Your daughter is the poster child for how your family eats, like it or not.
Writer’s stats: Female, Straight.