Big Problems

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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.

ANSWER

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.

Manorexic

Dear Dr. Darcy:

My boyfriend is so extremely obsessed with his physical appearance that it’s beginning to make me rethink our relationship.  When I tell you he’s regimented about what he eats, when he eats and how much he eats, I’m not exaggerating.  He will not eat after 4:30 in the afternoon (meaning at 4:30, he ingests his last meal, his last calorie, other than water with lemon or green tea…). 90% of all restaurants are off-limits.  He’s decided he’s gluten intolerant, and before that he was a vegetarian who ate fish.

When I met him, he had maybe 10 lbs to lose, but he’s gone way beyond that. He used to weigh 175 and now I don’t think he even weighs 150.  His face used to look youthful and now his cheeks are sunken and he looks older than his age.  I don’t know what to do about this.  I’ve also lost weight since his ‘health craze’ began.  Every month he goes on a cleanse and because it affects our ability to connect over eating, he offers to buy me one as well (his cleanses are pretty expensive/roughly 500.00 each). The subject of food and his weight are so touchy that I’m afraid to bring it up in conversation, which has led me to recently contemplate exiting the relationship.  I think it will be easier to walk away than to get him to see himself and his eating disorder accurately.

ANSWER

Eating disorders are a growing issue among men, particularly among gay men. You’ve got your hands full, boyfriend.  I feel myself wanting to skip a meal just reading about your story.  I can’t imagine what you must go through living with this.

I don’t normally suggest that people pack their bags and leave their partners, but I think it’s bad for both of you to allow the status quo to continue indefinitely.  Aside from the fact that eating disorders can be contagious, I’m seriously concerned for his health.  If I were you, I’d use where you are emotionally to fuel your ability to have 1 final conversation about the issue and in that conversation I’d say this:

“I love you ~ but I don’t love being with you anymore. Your issues around food and body weight are taking up more space in this relationship than the two of us, and if you’re not willing to get help today, I’m going to have to say goodbye.”

Let me clarify one final thing:  I'm not suggesting that he see a therapist. I'm suggesting that he needs to go away somewhere - to live, for 30 or more days.  I will update this post by the end of the day with referrals for where to send him. It won’t be cheap and when he balks at the cost, remind him of all the dough he’ll be saving by not having to buy the two of you monthly cleanses at a grand a pop.  And let me tell you this:  If you don’t have this conversation with him, 1 of 2 things will happen:  Either he’ll die and you’ll spend the rest of your life regretting that you didn’t take a stronger stand, or you’ll join him in his eating disorder. Grab your balls and do the right thing. Unless you want to be his roommate in rehab. That was a joke.  Any decent rehab won't take the two of you at the same time, so don't get any cute ideas.

Writer’s Stats: Male, Gay.