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How to help my teenaged daughter with her weight.
August 11, 2006 8:38 PM   Subscribe

I have a bright, wonderful 19 year old daughter who is gradually becoming overweight. I love her dearly and think she's beautiful, but am concerned about future health, social and self-esteem issues if she continues gaining weight. I have never been critical of her on this issue. Proper diet and exercise is an important part of my life and I've hoped that she would come to emulate me in this area, but that's not happening. Any advice on how I might lovingly guide her to better diet and fitness habits without pressuring her, or having her resent me, or develop negative body image issues?
posted by capcuervo to Human Relations (49 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think being told "you have to fit into a given mold to be desirable to society as a whole or a specific man in particular" would be a good way to help develop body image issues.

Aside from perhaps learning to accept YOURSELF that she might not wind up being interested in "proper diet and exercise," hey, about the only thing you can do that won't leave her resentful of you (the way that a direct confrontation over a matter that is, let's face it, compartively trivial) is to make offers and hope she takes you up on, like going on bike rides or walks. However, and I speak from experience here, the best way to get your kids to never want to spend time around you is to spend that time being preachy and lecturing them on whatever Positive Habits and Attributes are on your mind at the time.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:47 PM on August 11, 2006


Take her on a trip to Italy. She will learn about what food really is and walk everywhere.
posted by livinginmonrovia at 8:53 PM on August 11, 2006 [4 favorites]


Which would you rather, an overweight daughter who loves you, or a skinny daughter who hates herself and resents you? But yeah, not being a hypocrite and eating well, and excercising well together would probably be a good start, if it concerns you.
posted by Jimbob at 8:57 PM on August 11, 2006


I would wonder what is making her overeat...the underlying issue should be the concern, not the eating itself. I went through a pretty terrible time in my early 20s and gained some weight, which I subsequently lost. I just talked with my mom about this time a couple of weeks ago. I thanked her for not making comments about the weight gain as this would have been tremendously upsetting for me. Instead she supported me during the tough time, with zero mention of my eating habits, and everything worked out.
posted by meerkatty at 9:02 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


She's 19. I'm afraid there may not be a lot you can do at this point. Jimbob's idea of offering to to exercise with her is a good one, if she still lives at home rather than away at college or something.

But she's a young adult now and your influence is limited.
posted by Justinian at 9:02 PM on August 11, 2006


There comes a time when the fledgling leaves the nest, and has to be permitted to take responsibility for her own life. I think one of the hardest things a parent has to do is to watch a child make a mistake and not do anything about it, which is what I think you should be doing in this case.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:03 PM on August 11, 2006


Is she in college? A lot of girls gain some weight when they go to college. I did. Once I figured out that, hey, just because I have this huge meal plan doesn't mean I have to eat everything in sight, I lost it. Give her time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:08 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Really you haven't told us enough about your relationship... your living situation with her (together or apart) and her lifestyle & job is a key to the puzzle.

(1) If she lives with you, cut down on unhealthy food in the house... unavailability is more powerful than willpower. If she visits, don't have food, nice dinners, and eating-out be a centerpiece of spending time together.

(2) Find a cool sport that you can do together, like swimming or tennis. If you all get a big appetite from this, it could be an issue.

Aside from that I can't think of much else. As others are suggesting, you can't change her or coerce her into a lifestyle choice, but you can influence her for better or worse. Influence by example is perhaps what will likely work the best.
posted by zek at 9:08 PM on August 11, 2006


I would not bring the issue up directly, ever.

A subtle way to get her to exercise might be to invite her to come exercise with you, telling her you could really use some company. (Obviously, you should pick a time when you won't be exercising with friends.) Pick a time when you know she won't be busy, hype up how fun it is, and make it clear that it's nothing too intense for her. You just want to go out for a little exercise and not be lonely.

Of course, she could just say no. In which case, it's important to not be too persistant and risk making it obvious that you're hinting that she's putting on weight.
posted by fogster at 9:09 PM on August 11, 2006


You sound like you're coming from a loving place. I feel strongly that you should not say anything to your daughter about this issue though. I still feel a sting when I remember my mother suggesting that we diet together at a time when I felt happy about my body.

I would suggest reading something that comes at fat from a different perspective. Fat!So? is a funny, thoughtful, well-researched but easy to read book that may help broaden your thinking about body size.
posted by serazin at 9:09 PM on August 11, 2006


who is gradually becoming overweight

Define overweight first. Clinically overweight, or is she just filling out now that's she ending her teenage years?
posted by frogan at 9:11 PM on August 11, 2006


At 19 I related way more to my mother's body than to my father's. Does her mother have a healthy attitude towards eating, weight and exercise that she can emulate?

I think the household as a whole can contribute to health by doing some active stuff for fun when they're together (the beach, walks, wiffle ball, tennis, horse riding, whatever). The household can have healthy snacks on hand that are easily packable so that no one finds fast food to be the easiest option when things get busy.
posted by xo at 9:11 PM on August 11, 2006


Is she going grossly obese, or just heavier than most modern women? Maybe she's just going to a body size that's comfortable for her. Modern norms of beauty-teh skinny-aren't necessarily the be-all and end-all, or even healthy. My friend Stormi wears a little more weight than most women but is proud of it, and she really changed my perspective on the whole thing [self-link].
posted by evariste at 9:12 PM on August 11, 2006


Basically, is your daughter living the good life and enjoying herself, or is she gaining weight in a pathological manner? If the only thing wrong with her weight is that you don't like it, leave her alone. If it seems like an eating disorder or a psychological problem, then yes, you should broach the matter.
posted by evariste at 9:14 PM on August 11, 2006


Is this just the "Freshman 15" which happens to a lot of girls once they get away from overcontrolling mothers or is it something else?
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 9:16 PM on August 11, 2006


Most fit, healthy people are that way because they make an effort to be. I don't think that you're going to make your daughter develop lasting body issues or hate you by pointing out that she is developing the habits she will have for life right now.

19 is a busy age, lots of people gain weight or just get unhealthy because they stop playing HS sports and get to cook for themselves for the first time. Then there is all the beer you need to drink and all the late nights eating greasy food with your friends. It should be easy, as her parent, to point out any number of things she's doing that are "unhealthy", like eating badly or staying up late all the time and being too tired to do the things she used to do etc. etc. If she is clearly upset or embarrassed about the weight you can tell her, quite honestly, that it's just a sign she needs to take better care of herself and not a big deal in and of itself.

My Mom constantly nagged me at that age about eating enough vegetables and getting enough sleep and as a consequence, I now eat well and get enough sleep. No body issues involved whatsoever. It did take years of nagging though, I warn you.
posted by fshgrl at 9:16 PM on August 11, 2006


Is she going grossly obese, or just heavier than most modern women?

Considering that "most modern women" are overweight themselves that's not a great reference point.
posted by fshgrl at 9:19 PM on August 11, 2006


It's normal for girls to put on weight at that age, and a large part of it is biology. Most people don't realise, but this is the last stage of puberty. It's not the same for everyone obviously, puberty never really is, but it's normal to fill out and put on wieght in previously thin areas around 19-22 as your body gets ready for having kids. There are hormones and metabolism changes and everything causing this, just like in all the previous stages of puberty.

This is probably playing at least a part in what's happening with your daughter. Changes in lifestyle apon leaving school plus the body just generally slowing down can also be involved. Your daughter may be gaining more weight than this accounts for or have something else going on, it's difficult to tell from your post. In which case, yeah she probably needs your help. But if it's just a general bodyshape change without any obvious lifestyle changes/problems, don't freak out too much. Women in their twenties are supposed to be curvier than teenagers.

Whatever is going on, focus on being healthy. The good eating habits drilled into me by my mother while growing up have saved me many times over the years. She never focussed on or cared about my size, more about making me eat regularly (no skipping breakfast!), have fruit and vegetables regularly and telling me off when I snacked too much (specialy when I then skipped dinner). Help your daughter look after herself and be healthy, and her weight will fall into place too.
posted by shelleycat at 9:38 PM on August 11, 2006


MYOB. Does she look like she has friends who care about her no matter how she looks? Have you and her mother have been loving and supportive?

My parents were not and the surprise to them should not be that I have an eating disorder, but that it didn't develop until I was not quite 21.

Her making food and being overweight a crime are some of the reasons why I no longer speak to my mother.
posted by brujita at 10:31 PM on August 11, 2006


I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the number of people saying "don't ever talk to her about this", but still I am.

Are we really that scared that being honest about a real concern might hurt someone's feelings that we're giving advice not to talk about it? That's depressing.

It's not like the original poster is the girl's boyfriend who just wants her to be hotter - it's her mother. She obviously cares.

Valid questions that have been asked, and probably need to be answered before decent advice can be given, include how much weight this really is, and if it's significant compared to the very typical weight gain around that age.

Assuming she's gaining significant weight to the point that you have legitimate concerns about her health, it's absolutely something you should talk to her about. She's 19, she should be able to handle an honest talk with her Mom. Just be nice about it.
posted by twiggy at 10:33 PM on August 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


I agree with you, twiggy, but note the parent in question appears to be the father, not the mother.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 PM on August 11, 2006


I fall into the catagory of Meerkatty. I am surprised that so many of you say to let it be it is natural. It may well be normal, but to not check first to make sure there is no underlying reason is negligent. Maybe this is a cry for help or even just a coping mechanism for a new stage in her life. She may need to be taught that eating away your anxiety is not appropriate. Could be nothing, but it needs to at least be brought up with her.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:58 PM on August 11, 2006


Honestly, if you are the father, I almost feel like it's not your business. I mean, it is, totally, you care about her, etcetera, but if she's gaining weight, she probably knows it, and she probably understands the different effects it will have on her life. You, as a father, I think your role is to be the one thing that doesn't give a lick about it. Society does, boys might, she might, jobs might, even (paranoia can run deep), doctors could say something, even her mother could talk about what it's like to be young and female and having a changing metabolism, but you? I think this is the one thing that fathers should stay completely out of.

Admittedly, I am biased as all get out by having a father who's spent a lot of time in life gently and not so gently needling my mother about her weight, and when he moved on to even the vaguest insinuations, insinuations that were not at all encouraging (as opposed to your well-thought out ones...I'm not implying you're a jerk) regarding my own, I felt immediately harshly betrayed, and I resent him deeply for it. I love the man, he's brilliant, but he had the power to cause a disproportionate amount of hurt stemming from one person, and knowing that he thinks my weight is some sort of issue irritates the hell out of me.
posted by redsparkler at 11:56 PM on August 11, 2006


I think being told "you have to fit into a given mold to be desirable to society as a whole or a specific man in particular" would be a good way to help develop body image issues.,?

Body image issues are better then heart disease!

I would wonder what is making her overeat...the underlying issue should be the concern, not the eating itself. I went through a pretty terrible time in my early 20s and gained some weight,

Eh, it's probably just the "freshman 15" You know, crazy collage student life, or whatever.

Probably she already knows, it's not like people don't notice their weight. You mentioning anything will just make her uncomfortable.
posted by delmoi at 12:26 AM on August 12, 2006


If your daughter mentions her weight to you, then say "If I can help you in any way at all, let me know." She won't forget that you offered, and she'll appreciate your leaving it to her.
posted by wryly at 12:27 AM on August 12, 2006


It's been said before in a different way (exercise together) but here's an idea that I think might work on several levels:

Create a father/daughter tradition of taking walks together.

On these walks, ask her questions and open yourself up to listening to what she has to say. Let her guide the conversation and then share things about yourself that might've been previously off-limits due to her maturity point.

She's 19, presumably going through transition, and could likely use a soft and comforting ally. If she's having problems that are contributing to a poor relationship with food, exercise or her body, they might come out in the course of your conversations. Address the issues, not her weight, not her exercise. It would be fair to address her coping skills, perhaps teach her new ways of dealing with pain and stress.

Think of the focus of these walks as an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with her, as opposed to a purposeful exercise activity designed to help her lose weight. Over time, she'll associate walking with emotional comfort and understanding -- and might continue the habit on her own or other trusted friends and family members.

Give her some love, let her be who she is, create a space of comfort. If she's reluctant to take you up on the walking tradition, you can use some subtle manipulation by couching it as your need for her company/advice -- which really, isn't so far from the truth. You're the one in a needing state right now, the reasons can remain off the table for the time being. Give her an opportunity to be of service to you, and perhaps it will illustrate ways in which she can be of service to herself.

On that note, encourage her to volunteer in a physical capacity. Set up some opportunities to volunteer together, perhaps in a community garden. By doing good for others she'll have a harder time feeling bad about herself, or giving in to self-esteem issues that might be fueling an unhealthy relationships with her eating. That, and a gardening activity will provide a neat context to reestablish a connection to healthy foods.

Also, give her space to right her own ship. She's 19, and there are a whole host of external motivating factors that she might connect to in order to affect her own weight loss, on her terms. It does happen.

If you're truly worried, perhaps make sure she gets a yearly physical in the near future. 19 is a good age to stay on top of things like that.. there could be an underlying health issue responsible for her weight gain.
posted by cior at 12:32 AM on August 12, 2006


I also really love livinginmonrovia's idea of taking her on a foreign trip. Give her a worldly perspective, a new take on transportation and food. With so many things to see and do, she'll find the motivation to move.

I recently moved from a car city to a public transit/walk/bike city. My weight has been dropping steadily with little conscious effort. It works.
posted by cior at 12:34 AM on August 12, 2006


This adult woman's body has nothing to do with what you want. It's not a public entity. It's only hers, and since I don't see any indication here that she wants "help" with what her body looks like, I don't think either you or any of us need to be involved.
posted by lemuria at 1:05 AM on August 12, 2006 [3 favorites]


I totally agree with redsparkler, having come from a similar situation myself. Being overly concerned about your daughter's weight implies to her that she is not worthy of your love if she does not conform to your view of feminine attractiveness. Her attractiveness should not even be an issue to you. Her self-esteem should be. Even suggestions can imply criticism. If she IS overweight, trust me, she knows it. If she wants to change it she will.
Help bolster her self esteem by loving her uncritically. Yes, fitness is important to you but that doesn't mean it is as important to her. Love her for who she is, regardless of the outside package and leave it to her to worry about her exterior appearance. Really, given the way society (and MeFi) view excess weight, the last thing she needs is for the most important man in her life to add his voice to those looking down on her. If she is overweight and does not care about how society views it, then good for her! I would be proud to have a daughter who had that kind of confidence.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 2:14 AM on August 12, 2006


What Steven C. Den Beste said.
posted by flabdablet at 2:16 AM on August 12, 2006


It's her body, not yours. What she does with it is not your business. In short: butt out.

Are we really that scared that being honest about a real concern might hurt someone's feelings that we're giving advice not to talk about it? That's depressing

If there was any evidence that this is a "real concern" my advice would be different. But there isn't, so there's not.
posted by Dreama at 3:09 AM on August 12, 2006


MeFi: What Steven C. Den Beste said.

Incidentally, it's really quite interesting seeing a Metafilter thread that doesn't involve a game of "BASH THE FATTY!" Now all we have to do is try to find a topic for each of the other automatic knee-jerk insult-fests that resonates with the readers, but I think it's going to be a bit harder when the topic is, say, the Republicans, or Kevin Smith.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:37 AM on August 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


The gender of the parent is really a non-issue, I think. Mothers can be just as creepy as fathers when they are overly concerned with the weight of their daughters.

I love her dearly and think she's beautiful, but am concerned about future health, social and self-esteem issues if she continues gaining weight. I have never been critical of her on this issue. Proper diet and exercise is an important part of my life and I've hoped that she would come to emulate me in this area, but that's not happening.

Very few people continue gaining weight until they reach the level where it starts posing health concerns. Do you have any real evidence that she is having trouble with social or self-esteem issues? You may want to consider that what's really bothering you is that maintaining your weight is something that's a big big deal to you, and what's bothering you is that she just doesn't give a crap about this thing that is such a big deal to you. Like a parent who always wanted their kid to be a doctor, and then the kid says he doesn't want to be.
posted by 23skidoo at 6:07 AM on August 12, 2006


Is this just the "Freshman 15" which happens to a lot of girls once they get away from overcontrolling mothers

...and start hanging out more with their friend Mr. Alcohol...

Note: this isn't just girls; guys are just as susceptable, probably more so.

Nineteen is about when the downhill spiral starts. The quality of diet turns to crap now that parents aren't shoving good food down their throat, the quantity of exercise diminishes to nill as they rely more heavily on cars instead of walking. Alcohol consumption increases, free-time activities move from physical (sports, biking to a friend's house, etc.) to purely social (parties, hanging out, etc.).

The only thing I could suggest is obliquely suggesting she move to a big city, or Europe. Someplace where she'll be more likely to walk off the extra pounds. As others have already stated, (and you know already), there is no "nice" way to bring this issue up with her.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:21 AM on August 12, 2006


Are we really that scared that being honest about a real concern might hurt someone's feelings that we're giving advice not to talk about it?

[Disclaimer: I generalize, here, about men and women.]

The poster who wrote that lists M as his gender (as do I). It's so hard for most of us men to understand how (many) women confront weight issues. And I say that, even though I perpetually diet, work out, count calories, and worry about my weight. I do all of that, but STILL weight is not fraught for me, the way it is for virtually every one of my (white American) female friends.

Implying that a woman is overweight doesn't "hurt her feelings." It DEVASTATES her. I totally get (and respect) "honesty is the best policy," but this is a special case. I might tell a woman that she has bad breath, that people think she's mean, or that she should quit smoking -- but I'm NEVER tell her she's fat.

Any man, who wants to understand how different this issue is for women than for men, should see the movie "Eating." It's barely fiction. Many of the characters -- all female -- talk about their tortured relationships with food. Though they are actors playing characters, the speeches are based on the real actors' lives.
posted by grumblebee at 6:47 AM on August 12, 2006


Personally, as a woman who began around age 19 gaining weight I've never had a health problem (low cholesterol, very low blood pressure and no asthma, heart disease or other "fat girl" issues) and I think I'm dammit cute as a button and haven't ever had a problem with other people's opinion of me. I've never had a problem with the opposite sex either and didn't date "chubby chasers".

She honestly may not be bothered by this, if she is then she'll let you know. Any "gentle pushes" you try to give her may be met with resentment or anger, both because of her age and because she feels you don't fully accept her unconditionally. When she gets tired of carrying extra weight, she'll get rid of it and not before.
posted by hollygoheavy at 6:56 AM on August 12, 2006


Just because we leave home doesn't mean our parents and their behaviour no longer has an impact on us. Anyone who goes home for the holidays knows exactly what I mean.

As someone who started to 'gradually gain weight' in my later teens, and who is still suffering (and I use that word deliberately) the consequences, I can say this:

Your concerns are valid - Let me preface this by saying that I know I am beautiful, my husband thinks I'm beautiful, and I can rock my curves - BUT I would still definitely connect my weight to my ongoing struggle with depression, recurring lack of self-worth, and my high cholesterol. Being overweight (at my level) is not something that will kill me, but it sure as hell has gotten in the way of a lot of things in my life.

Ask her to cook with you. Teach her about the huge variety of food out there, and in the process teach her that food has a life all its own, not just the one that happens in her mouth. I learned in my teenage years that food was an inconvenience, a punishment, and a reward all at the same time. All this at the feet of the master, my mother. I am only now learning that food is a complex and fascinating part of my life that deserves deliberation and attention, not hording, scarfing or bingeing.

Also, if your daughter lives close by, ask her if she would be willing to help YOU meet a fitness goal by exercising with you. If you can keep this up for at least 6 weeks, she will feel so much better. Plus, while you are running, walking, biking, whatever, you get the chance to really talk to her. I would have loved to have either of my parents, even when I was 19, demonstrate to me how fantastic the movement of my body could make me feel.

Now that I am conquering my weight demons, I know that only I am responsible for where I am today. But, if at nineteen, either of my parents had made a conserted, non-judgemental effort to teach me to love food just for what it is, and to love the power of my body, they could have saved me a whole world of hurt. So love your daughter for who she is, and try to introduce her to behaviours that will help her see what the choices are in front of her. Good luck!
posted by dirtmonster at 7:02 AM on August 12, 2006


One of the best things my family did to help with my own body image and weight was to take an interest in their own. My dad began eating better and walking/running in the morning when I was about 15. My mom also began cooking less meat and walking in the evenings.

Through this my dad showed me that it is far more difficult to fix weight and health issues when you're older. At the same time, they increased my interest in eating better and excercising by offering me portions of delicious and healthy food, eating healthier snacks, showing me how to measure correct, and inviting me to join them when they excercised. I have continued with many of these habits, though not as consistently as I would like.

Recently I've also found that the motivational podcast, motivation to move is very helpful in getting me out the door at 5 am to get to the gym. Get Skinny the Smart Way was also a great book on nutrition, but it doesn't seem to be available anymore.

Finally, I think that focusing on health rather than appearance is the most important point. When people tell me I look good (I've lost 30 lbs over the last two years) now, it makes me feel very defensive over the way I once looked. I still do not believe I looked bad, only that I wasn't healthy.
posted by bohdel at 7:25 AM on August 12, 2006


I understand the concern of a parent... but believe me, your daughter is well aware of her weight gain. I promise, there is no way in this society that people are "oblivious" to weight gain especially at age 19. As a parent, the best think you can do is be there for her unconditionally, and not make it an issue.

If she brings it up with you, be supportive, and ask her how you can help. But otherwise... leave her alone. Most fat people I know had parents who were critical of their weight, and it really doesn't help in the long run.

And to those who think eating or body issues are better than heart disease? A life-time of yo-yo dieting driven by eating disorders and body disphoria is much more destructive and stressful on the body that just being striving to be fit at whatever your weight may be.

And being thin does not guarantee happiness or health.
posted by kimdog at 8:17 AM on August 12, 2006


Proper diet and exercise is an important part of my life

I would take a closer look at the example you have set for your daughter. I only say this because I grew up with a father who pretty much had an eating disorder. I love him dearly, but living with him taught me to treat food either as a forbidden pleasure or as the enemy, and not a normal part of life. I'm still working, at 26, on my relationship with food as a result. Or rather, on not having a relationship with food, and just being normal and moderate with it.

That said, most of my more normal friends' parents have at one point or another said something about their weight to them. Usually its their mothers noting the freshmen 15, or the slight weight gain that seems to come with getting your first office job and sitting on your ass 8 hours a day. They usually say something like "Maybe you should watch what you eat" and my friends would get pissed off and go on a diet and lose 15 lbs and that would be that. Then both their weight & relationship with their moms would go back to normal. However, I think this only works if both the mother & child do not have some form of an eating disorder or addictive personality.

The way you refer to fitness & nutrition as a very important part of your life...I'd just be careful, that's all. It's very possible that having freedom from a neurotic parent is letting them explore their boundaries for the first time ever, and that working this out is something they will have to do without you.
posted by tastybrains at 8:42 AM on August 12, 2006


Apparently my experience growing up, and my relationship with my parents is quite different from most of the people here, so I absolutely won't argue with the existing advice.

But I'd at least like to offer another data point on the tail of the curve...

My parents have always been relatively honest with me (and my brother) about food, academics, career and life. They have, at times, mentioned concerns about my diet and exercise. The phrasing generally involved worrying about "declining athleticism". Eating well and exercising were treated like sleeping enough, taking vitamins and studying for classes - just things you should do, and things that parents might worry about. I trusted their advice, and they respected my ability to ignore it.

I personally appreciated it when they asked about weight gain, and what might be causing it, 'cause then I knew it was getting to a point where it was clearly affecting my life. I'm happy that I can trust the people who love me to look out for me. Perhaps the key to this was getting positive feedback as well. When there was a good reason for weight gain (rapid weight spurts in my early teens and early twenties) or if I got bothered about being 5-10 pounds above my "comfy" weight, my parents were the first to assure me that it was normal and they *weren't* concerned.
posted by synapse at 8:47 AM on August 12, 2006


Since when can a parent tell a nineteen year old anything?

As a parent of young adults I can assure you that mentioning weight to her will not result in anything positive. She knows what she weighs, believe me, and will take what you say as interference.

Simply accept her and continuing to model healthy behaviors. She will come to you if she wants help. She will get fit and /or lose weight when SHE is ready and motivated. I know it is frustrating but when they get to that age we have to let them live their own lives.
posted by konolia at 9:00 AM on August 12, 2006


Echoing what everyone else here has said- a 19 year old woman KNOWS if she's gaining weight. Nothing you say will be productive, and home should be a place she's safe from criticism about body image. (You can bet she's already getting it from her girlfriends, boyfriends, and the media.)

The suggestion to get together to cook and the suggestion to start walking together are the only ones that I would have been okay with, but at 19 I had such an active social life that hanging out with my dad was the last thing I wanted to be doing. (Sorry, Dad.)

Unless you're living in the same house or already spend a lot of time together, MYOB.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:22 AM on August 12, 2006


Women know their bodies well. Telling her she's fat (even phrased in the most gentle way) will do much more harm than good. Being a good role model is the best thing you should do.
posted by Meagan at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2006


Is it possible she's gone on the pill? That's linked to weight gain as well.

Also, I'd like to echo what everyone else here said about the freshman 15 (or 20, or 30). I gained close to 25 pounds when I went to college -- I blame poor eating, excessive drinking, and an absence of exercise. When I got out of school, left the party life behind, started working out, and started cooking for myself the weight gain gradually vanished. I'm now 5 pounds less than I was when I finished high school.

I disagree with people who say you shouldn't talk to your daughter, but you should be careful. Maybe, "Hey, hon, I've noticed you've put on a few pounds lately. Would you be OK with going to a doctor to make sure this is just normal college weight gain, and not a sign of some kind of a health problem?"

She's not 8 or 12, she's a grown up. She can handle a gentle comment at her age, especially if it's not nagging. It may bother her a bit, it may even piss her off. But it's not going to send her spiralling out of control into an eating disorder.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:35 AM on August 12, 2006


I actually did up being one of those women who went spiraling out of control into an eating disorder. 'Grown ups' develop them too. My mother tried to discuss my weight in a way that she thought was supportive, and all I got out of it was that she thought I was a fuckup. Grown up kids (and 19 isn't all that grown up) care a lot about what their parents think, I promise. Even when they pretend they don't.

I was that 19 year old girl not all that long ago, so my advice is to leave it alone. She's well aware of her weight, as others have already said, and unless she's made it clear to you that she's uncomfortable with it I would be very careful with saying anything at all. I'll bet money that she already feels like shit about it without your added input. My mother didn't put me on any crazy diets or harp on me about it consistently, but her offhand comments were more than enough to throw me into a pattern of self-destructive diet and exercise habits in order to lose weight and please her. I more or less avoid her these days, in order to figure out how to be okay with myself, instead of okay for her.

She'll get plenty of criticism about her weight from other sources, both internally and from society as a whole. She doesn't need her mother to add to it. It would serve you both more to be her ally, and let her come to you if/when she's ready.
posted by makonan at 11:28 AM on August 12, 2006


or her father to add to it. IRTE. My advice stands regardless of parental gender.
posted by makonan at 11:33 AM on August 12, 2006


You can't. She's an adult, and well aware of the issues surrounding weight in this society.

The more my niece's family pressured her about her weight, the more she gained. It breaks my heart to see the people who should accept for for who she is make her so miserable.

It's her life, and her body - let her come to terms with it on her own, if she chooses to.

In the meantime provide loving support and acceptance. Good luck to you both.
posted by Space Kitty at 3:05 PM on August 12, 2006


Ain't no way that a 19 year-old American girl hasn't noticed that she's gained weight.

I have no idea about your relationship with your daughter in the preceeding nineteen years. I hope it's a good one.

For her father, arguably the most important man in her life, to point that out to her as a situation that needs to be "fixed" (as in, there's something wrong with you) will only lead to pain, humilation, resentment, and have nothing to do with where you want to help her.

She's a young adult now, and respond appropriately (but not neurotically) if she asks for help.

A father who mentions to his daughter that he thinks she's becoming fat (without the context of knowing her/caring about her as a person -- how are her grades? what kind of people are her friends? what does she do outside of classes?) only says to her what society already says to her every.single.day, which is "You suck because you aren't as skinny as a skeleton," and "You have no worth if you are not pleasing to look at."

And when a father reveals himself to agree with all that, that he only feels his daughter's worth is through her physicality (though well-intentioned that you think it is), well, it breaks her heart.
posted by Pocahontas at 8:02 PM on August 12, 2006


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