Morning!  We are running so low on groceries, but I had just enough fruit to squeeze out one last balances meal:


I made French toast with Dakota bread (which doesn’t really work… plain wheat or a sweet bread is better!) and topped it with 1/2 a serving of honey Greek yogurt and blackberries.


Not that I’m complaining or anything.  🙂


Teenager Troubles:  What to Say?


Sometimes, I get an e-mail seeking advice, and I simply don’t know what to say.  Either I have no experience in the subject or the writer has already exhausted all the avenues I’d advise they take.  That’s the issue with the letter below. 


I’m only 8 years out from being a teenager, and I can definitely remember how HARD those years were.  Although I was a “healthy” weight (and I use that term loosely because my behaviors weren’t healthy), I had my share of angst-y issues.  And I know that having supportive parents were key in helping me resolve them, which is why my heart went out to the mom in the letter below. 

Read on…


Anonymous Mom wrote:


The reason I am writing you tonight is because we are having sort of a meltdown here.  My fifteen year old daughter is very overweight and has been her whole life (my 19 year old is a healthy weight).  She struggles with her weight and the sadness it brings to her on a daily basis.  I’ve done all I can do to help her.  I only purchase and prepare healthy foods and we keep going out to eat to a twice a month celebration.  We do get occasional treats when her friends come over.  I try to not make a big deal about it.  I don’t want her to end up becoming anorexic or bulimic.  I set a good example by exercising regularly but again, I try to not be preachy.  She knows what to do.  She just needs to get to the place where she will do it.  We have seen the doctor and have even participated in a pre-diabetic class for teens.  We went to Weight Watcher’s once (she wouldn’t go back.)  


The thing that has caused the meltdown is that she had interviewed for a leadership position in her high school band and she did not get it.  She is heartbroken.  I was wondering if you could offer any words of wisdom that I can share with her or if maybe your readers could help.  She is a beautiful young lady and a straight A student.  She just has such low self esteem due to her weight issues.  She is around 205 pounds on her 5’6" frame. 


I’d love any suggestions from your readers. 


Here are some of my initial thoughts:


  • Obviously, it’s extremely hard to be overweight in high school (heck, it’s hard to be different in any way in high school). But losing weight will not necessarily mend the girl’s self-esteem issues.  Maybe to lose the weight in a healthy way, she needs to first build up her self-esteem?  What are some ways she can do this?


  • Anonymous Mom didn’t mention trying to engage her daughter in any physical exercise.  Maybe they could go on walks together?  After all, it’s nice in the summertime!  I love having a dog to walk, and I knew a mother and daughter who used to volunteer at the animal shelter and would walk the stray dogs.  Any other ideas?


I’d love to hear suggestions from people who were in a similar place in high school.  What do you wish your parents had said (and hadn’t said)?  Is Anonymous Mom doing everything right?  Is it just up to the daughter now?  Will losing the weight mend her self-esteem or does she need something else, too?


PS – Jessica is giving away a copy of the Operation Beautiful book!



  • Holly July 23, 2010, 9:39 am

    i definitely think engaging in some physical exercise might help – who knows? maybe she will find something she is good at, feels good about and that can help build her self-esteem. that is such a tough time in life, and my heart goes out to her. i hope she knows how loved, cared for and special she is!!!

  • Evan Thomas July 23, 2010, 9:43 am

    She needs to get excited to lose weight somewhere with her peers. If she’s sitting in a Weight Watchers room with women 3 times her age, she’s going to hate it. If she’s able to be with kids her own age and make friends, she’ll be that much more motivated. Maybe they can find a group like that near them; or maybe she can just find a sport that she really enjoys where she’ll be moving a lot. She sounds like she’d need a very compassionate and understanding coach, because to be honest all my high-school coaches were hard asses on my when I wasn’t as fit as some of my teammates.

  • Michelle July 23, 2010, 9:44 am

    Oh, my heart goes out to this girl!
    1. I’m curious if she has any hobbies? Music, any kind of crafting, etc? If she can find something else that she’s good at, the self-esteem should build up, hopefully encouraging her to take other challenges in other areas (physical exercise).
    2. If she is looking to do leadership/charity work, maybe encouraging her to sign up for a walk for a cause that she believes in? Sometimes people exercise for reasons other than just a love of being fit, and I’ve heard of people starting their healthy journey by doing something for a cause close to their heart. (I know not all 15 year olds think like this).
    3. I completely agree with you that if they have a good relationship, mom/daughter activities could be a big help, too!

    • Michelle July 23, 2010, 9:47 am

      Forgot to say, surrounding herself with people with healthy habits! Good point, Evan!

  • Maribeth July 23, 2010, 9:44 am

    I think that her self-esteem issues are mostly there because of the weight. I think if she tries to start out with light exercise she will start to feel better. What about trying a team sport–any sport? Not only will she be physically active, she will become healthier and be connected to others on the team. I think that will give her a confidence boost, too!

  • Camille July 23, 2010, 9:45 am

    I think the trick might be finding something she enjoys. Try taking her for hikes, doing yoga, rock climbing, or some other “alternate exercise”. Maybe if she finds something that catches her interest then it will become less of a challenge and more fun!

    • Andrea July 23, 2010, 12:18 pm

      I totally agree! Finding something she enjoys is so important. I was in the best shape of my life in college when I joined the ballroom dance club. What a workout and too much fun for words! I also enjoy bike riding and do that for exercise now. Because I enjoy it, it’s hidden exercise – it almost doesn’t count as exercise because it’s such a good time. It’s become a family activity we do together.

  • Nicki July 23, 2010, 9:45 am

    The mom doesn’t say if her daughter takes a role in leadership in other ways in her high school. Frequently, these leadership conferences are looking for people who are already leaders in clubs and activities to better their skills.

    On the other hand, many of these conferences are very political. If parents are big names in the community, the child/student will get chosen for the conference. Not fair, I know, but a way of life.

    Mom might want to either walk with her daughter or even suggest they do a run/walk together. I find there are lots of mother/daughter teams at local 5Ks. Both mom and daughter should emphasis finishing, not winning.

    Another option is to see if daughter is interested in starting and leading a youth group that walks or is learning to run.

  • Kelly July 23, 2010, 9:46 am

    My mom started taking spin classes with me when I was 10 and started to get self-conscious, and mind you that was a very early age to start worrying about body image. Taking the classes together really gave me the motivation to get up and be active. I probably wouldn’t have ever considered exercise to be fun if she didn’t say, “Hey, when I pick you up at school we can grab a snack and then go spinning before dinner. It was the perfect way to fill up my afternoon and not end up on the couch with a bag of chips after I finished my homework.

  • Marilou @ Mostly Healthy July 23, 2010, 9:48 am

    This is me, in high school.

    The more my mother passed comment on my weight, the more I felt self conscious and turned to food to “feel better”. I used to act like I did not care, but I was very very sad.

    It took me many years, and many pounds to finally get to a point where I decided to do something … but it had to come from me.

    I don’t really know what to say to this mom, since the more MY mom wanted to help me, the more it frustrated me.

    Maybe she can introduced her daughter to the blog world, show her that she is not alone in that situation, that others went through the same thing and succeed in having a better lifestyle.

    She could maybe also help her find an activity that she realli likes. For a teenager, I get that Weight Watchers meeting are BORING, but she could fall in love with group sports, dance, dragon boat perhaps? Anything … you’d be surprise of what can put her into gear!

    I’d be happy to communicate through email with this mom. I get 100% where her daughter is right now, and even though I don’t have all the answers, maybe I could share my own experience, and my own 16 years old point of view?

    • HTP Dad' July 23, 2010, 10:07 am


    • Cindi July 23, 2010, 10:11 am

      This is a great comment! I can also completely relate. I was always active in dance and soccer – but was always the bigger girl. I remember at the age of 9 my mom telling me I needed to go on a diet – and to rebel, I would just find myself eating more.

      I think the best thing she can do it to continue providing healthy food options and being an example by exercising, etc. However, the most important thing she can do is just accept her daughter for who she is, tell her she loves her and thinks she is beautiful – and always recognize her for her accomplishments and stop focusing on her daughters weight. Help her with her self esteem from the inside out.

      • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday July 23, 2010, 11:11 am

        Marilou, that was me as a teenager too. To a T.

        Mom is doing everything that she can and she should keep it up. But definitely don’t push the daughter because when you’re a teenager you don’t want to hear what your parents have to say (even when you know they’re right…maybe, especially when you know they’re right)

        Something needs to click with her that will make her realize that she’s not happy the way she is and needs to change it. She’ll have to discover this herself. (it took me until university to decide to change my weight)
        Keep up with the supportive environment, but let her be.

        • Marilou @ Mostly Healthy July 23, 2010, 11:24 am

          That kinda scares me too, because the day I will have a daugther .. I’m pretty sure I will be in this mother’s shoes …

      • Katie July 23, 2010, 11:24 am

        I couldn’t agree more with these comments. I’m sure everyone is different but from my experience I wish my mother had never commented on my weight. She claimed that she used to mention it because she knows how hurtful teasing can be, but considering I was just a little on the heavy side the only hurtful messages were from her.

        As a teenage you are more critical of yourself than anyone else could ever be, and I did not need a gentle reminder of my weight because I was already focused on it all the time. When my mom made comments about joining weight watchers with her or took me to her exercise class filled with middle age women it only succeeded in embarrassing me further.

        The change for me occurred when I went to college and I could freely go to the gym for my own reasons without her asking me if I was trying to lose weight. Now I exercise 6 times a week and am healthy, but I can say that I still don’t have a good relationship with my mother. In fact, I used to crash diet before coming home because the first thing my mother would say when she saw me was you look great, you lost weight.

        Obviously, this is only one cautionary tale and the mother in the letter seems to be doing a great job. I only mention it to say that I think the mother should focus her attention on building up her daughter’s self esteem. Keep setting a good example by exercising and preparing healthy foods, but most importantly tell her she’s beautiful and accept her for who she is.

        • Emily July 23, 2010, 12:39 pm

          This question in general hits home for me – I was overweight in a normal weight family. I hated it. I did lose the weight in HS only to be a yo-yo dieter in college. Finally, something clicked. To be honest, I had to learn to like myself first – which meant being happy with who I was. If I wasn’t happy with my weight – I had to change something. I started exercising – nothing crazy, just a little bit at a time. And finally I started seeing results. Also I didn’t restrict myself – but I was careful with portion control. My parents never pushed me to lose weight. My mom always cooked healthy meals and my whole family was active. Just be supportive of her in every aspect of her life and remind her daily how much you love her!

        • Dee July 23, 2010, 1:45 pm

          I totally gree with all of the above posters.

    • Jean July 23, 2010, 8:02 pm

      I too was a very overweight person in a normal weight family. My family led by healthy example (i.e. my dad ran 6 miles a day, my mom was cooking with whole wheat pasta, and belonged to a food co-op bringing very healthy foods into our home). But for some reason I just seemed to be wired differently than my family members. I LIVED to eat. But, I knew that my overeating was upsetting to my parents, not for vanity reasons, but because they were concerned for my health. The more they tried to help the worse I ate and the more I turned away from them and turned to food…including closet eating.
      I do think that the change has to come from within the daughter, and that may not come for a few years. For me the change came in January 2010 (age 31) when I had a gall bladder attack (which resulted in surgery). My body felt so beat up after that I that knew I was ready to start treating my body better. Then I discovered that by eating veggies, fruit, less meat, less processed food that I felt better and had more energy and almost “magically” the weight has started to come off. I am down 30 pounds without counting a single calorie. Although most people would say I have at least 80 pounds more to go, I feel healthy and I love this new lifestyle. I am chosing not to think about the long term goal, I’ve found that I can’t because I get discouraged. I chose to focus on how good I feel THIS MINUTE at 30 pounds less than I was 7 months ago. I choose to focus on how good I feel now that I have exercised regularly for the last 7 months and that my body has rewarded my diligence with energy that I never knew I had in me.
      For that mom, I know her heart is in the right place, it is clear that she loves her daughter and just wants the world for her. I just want to say that world doesn’t come just for the thin. Focus on what makes your daughter happy, focus on her strengths, tell her she is beautiful just the way she is, continue to lead by healthy example. Someday it will probably click for her and the weight will probably come off. But if for whatever reason it doesn’t just show her love and acceptance.

  • tanyasdaily July 23, 2010, 9:49 am

    Finding a hobby that includes being physical..buying a healthy cook book-to make healthy snacks and food..make it fun and a hobby out of it.

  • meg c. July 23, 2010, 9:51 am

    i went through something similar when i was unhappy with my body in middle school. i started walking 3 miles every day after school while listening to music and it really motivated me to be active. i also lost weight by eating healthier. my parents were supportive but didn’t exactly help me out with any of this. ultimately, nobody can do anything for this girl except the girl herself. all the mom can do is provide and encourage healthy options for food, and give her the opportunities and necessities to exercise.

    show her how good it feels to go for walks, or take a fun class at the gym. encourage healthy foods for the whole family. this girl isn’t going to be motivated to lose weight until she finds a way to do it that makes her feel good.

  • Dana July 23, 2010, 9:51 am

    As someone who grew up as an overweight child/obese teenager, I can totally relate to this story. When your self esteem is that low based upon your weight and the taunting she has probably recieved, it’s really hard to get out of that mentality. For me, going to college was the best thing that ever happened to me. Getting out of my environment made all the difference in the world. This girl is 15, so she obviously still has to live at home, but could the mom find activities/hobbies that will engage her daughter and make her feel confident in herself? Sometimes just getting out of the normal rut of life and finding a new passion is enough to spark a new motivation and determination.

    If she doesn’t want to find new hobbies/activities then maybe the mom could treat her to a makeover at a spa and buy her some new clothes. When you’re overweight and burdened with low self esteem, it’s extremely difficult to see yourself as beautiful. I never under-estimate how making the effort on the outside with hair/makeup/clothes can affect the way you feel about yourself on the inside. It may seem superficial, but sometimes we need that boost.

    I identify with this girl so much and wish I knew an immediate solution. I wish her and her mom the best.

  • Carolyn @ lovinlosing July 23, 2010, 9:53 am

    I like Kelly’s (#7) advice about getting her daughter in an active after-school routine. If the mom can’t be home every afternoon, maybe they could find an active after-school program. The Y usually has lots of activities for kids.
    The mom might also want to start making the daughter’s lunches (perhaps saying they need to save $$) in case the daughter is consuming a lot of calories at school since the mom says she cooks healthy at home.
    It will only last if the daughter decides to do it herself, but if she sees some changes to her body with small changes to her life it might motivate her.

  • Julia @ Brit Bride July 23, 2010, 9:53 am

    I think it is great that she is aware of approaching the situation with caution.

    I think she has the food boxes ticked, so maybe now she needs to encourage her to exercise? Maybe something AWAY from school – she may feel self concious in front of her classmates.

    Perhaps walks with the family/ swimming with Mom at the local pool etc? If they could afford it they could get a family gym membership at a health club and do classes?

    As was said above – perhaps reading the blogs might help (It helped me!).


  • Joanne July 23, 2010, 10:00 am

    Did the daughter have her thyroid checked? If she is hypothyroid, that could make it tough for weight loss and also make her low on energy.

    In re- to self esteem, that’s a tough one. In some cases, professional help is needed. In other cases, there can be a trigger and the person says “I’m worth it” and makes the move themselves in a positive direction.

    The support of family is key. Having friends that she can open up to and relate to is also important.

    I’ve read a lot of people who start a blog as a personal diary and end up with so much positive feedback from others with the same worries, concerns, and self doubt. Bloggers find out they are not that different from the rest of the world. We all suffer the same problems one way or another. Why not have her start a blog? No one knows what might be the trigger that gets her out of the slump.

  • Julz @ freshman5k July 23, 2010, 10:02 am

    I would recommend to try to find a group of same age girls with the same problem to work together.

  • Ronja July 23, 2010, 10:02 am

    Still being in high school, I know how hard it is there. No matter what, you easily feel bad about yourself. I’d recommend trying out different sports to see which one she enjoys. I used to hate all kinds of sports but my mother made me try out some different ones and I found the ones I enjoyed. Still, doing sports might be unpleasant to her so I’d really recommend walking. She can go on a walk by herself, with her family or try to get friends to join her and soon walking might seem fun to her.

  • Janna@Janna's Keeping it Real) July 23, 2010, 10:05 am

    I agree with engaging programs with people her age! I know that I went to my first weight watcher meeting right after high school, and I felt so out of place (and almost ashamed…which was silly) and I think having people that were my age, so that I could see it wasn’t just older individuals and myself struggling with weight would have been great.

    Also, if she could try gym classes, I think he might actually be pleasantly surprised. This is sort of tricky though, bc I know had my mom told me I was going to try classes, I would have fought it. It sort of has to be the individuals idea (their “ah ha!” moment) for it to really stick or be enjoyable.

    My heart really goes out to these two. It seriously sounds exactly like my/my mothers situation not all that long ago! I wish them the best!

  • Michele July 23, 2010, 10:06 am

    All the knowledge and opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle (presence of good foods, role models for healthy behaviors) won’t help until the girl (with some help) can figure out why she’s overeating. Most people overeat to avoid/suppress/alleviate unwanted or uncomfortable feelings. By dealing with those feelings instead of eating too much, one can start down the path toward routine healthy choices.

    • Michele July 23, 2010, 10:08 am

      Follow up —- that is NOT to suggest it’s easy to do. It may be a lifelong struggle, but struggling with something is better than giving up.

  • Astrid July 23, 2010, 10:07 am

    The first thought that comes to mind is to have the mom and daughter consider taking a yoga and/or meditation class together. Yoga is awesome, because (as many of us know) it embraces the body for how it is right now. It isn’t about losing weight, but rather about loving your body and seeing what it can do.
    It seems like every avenue take to help the daughter has focues on her weight and focused on what is “wrong” with her. Nothing is wrong. She may not be super healthy, but that isn’t the end of the world! The focus needs to be on building confidence and learning to love herself. Yoga could be great for both of them!
    Then of course, having her take a cooking course, a painting class, etc, could be awesome for her! I know that cooking and painting have saved my life and confidence.
    15 is not an easy age. It isn’t supposed to be. But it at least should be fun!

  • Kristin@MissOnMyOwn July 23, 2010, 10:07 am

    What if she suggests teenage daughter read your website or suggest a like minded online community that is her age group! That could give her some encouragement!

  • Sarah July 23, 2010, 10:07 am

    As someone who was also overweight in high school and can totally relate, people around you can do and say all that they want but in the end, it comes down to finding something deep within you to motivate yourself to lose the weight. And to be quite honest, it took me until my senior year to fully embrace the fact that yes, I was overweight and that yes, I needed to do something about it. My motivation was college and the fact that I didn’t want to go through the next four years of my life like I had the previous. It’s a slippery slope and one that’s certainly not easy but I think that her mom should continue encouraging healthy habits and hopefully it will start resonating with her like it did me. Flash forward to my senior year in college and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been and looking for my first half marathon to run. 🙂

  • Maria @ Oh Healthy Day July 23, 2010, 10:08 am

    I agree with some form of exercise. My mom and I joined a Curves gym (along with my aunts) when I was in high school. It’s only women, so it made all of us feel comfortable and I used that experience to gain confidence to later join “co-ed” gyms. She needs a place where she feels comfortable and cared for. Exercise is going to give her confidence and make her appreciate her body for what it’s capable of.

    They could also take some healthy cooking classes together (Whole Foods offers them). That way she can see food as a tool to lose weight, rather than the enemy.

  • Karla July 23, 2010, 10:09 am

    I was very overweight as a young teen (from childhood until about the 9th grade). Honestly, I wish my mother hadn’t said anything. I knew I was overweight. I didn’t need the reminder. It probably would have saved me a lot of food issues. I lost weight by going on a diet (6 week body makeover) but the self esteem/body issues are still there. I think the best thing a mother can do is be supportive and set a good example. Chances are she knows she needs to lose some weight. When she’s ready, she’ll put in the effort and lose the weight on her own.

  • Whitney July 23, 2010, 10:09 am

    I was in her exact situation when I was in high school about 6 years ago. I think the trick was finding a way to enjoy physical activity. My mom and I ended up joining the gym and we went together every morning. (It’s also important to choose a gym or activity in which you’re comfortable). It was great to spend time with her and I needed that person to motivate me to get out of bed. We also followed the same eating plan, so I didn’t feel as though I was alone. I saw results in the first week, and that made me excited to keep on going. But the best thing was just feeling as though I wasn’t alone in my struggles.

    ***Maybe she might want to think about starting her own blog?*** There’s so much support out there and it’s a great way to meet other people with the same struggles.

  • MarathonVal July 23, 2010, 10:10 am

    Since I’m a school social worker, I feel like I should have a great answer to this question. But it’s still a tough scenario! I feel for the daughter and the mom.

    Not knowing a lot of other details about the situation, I would definitely recommend doing whatever she can to build up her daughter’s self esteem… clubs, fun art projects at home, taking cooking classes, finding a new skill, karate, anything that she might be interested in that can help to increase her self-confidence.

    Also, not to get too deep but when we see teenagers that are engaged in such self-sabotaging behavior, their are deeper issues at hand such as past abuse or other uncomfortable situations. I would encourage the mom to work with the daughter’s social worker at a school or a private therapist just to check into this, just in case.

    The best of luck to them!

    • Emily July 23, 2010, 10:42 am

      THIS!!! Or find a young female pastor or youth leader she can talk to. Sometimes there are deeper issues–not necessarily.

      But, she could be heart broken about not getting a leadership person as something outsider her weight, right? I mean just because she is overweight, that doesn’t mean that this defines her. We’ve said that millions of times–you are beautiful as you are. Yes, we want her to get healthier, but how many operation beautiful notes have we written/seen that say, “The scale/size of clothes” don’t define you. Lets try not to define her…….Lets let her straight A’s define her–or her heart–ya know?

  • Nadine July 23, 2010, 10:11 am

    I grew up as an overweight child, overweight teenager, overweight college student and finally became a morbidly obese adult. I tried every diet and every lifestyle change. I worked out. I ate healthy. I was not able to lose weight, no matter what. If I put out extreme effort to follow a healthy eating plan and worked out religously, I would MAYBE lose a half a pound every week or two. It was hell.

    I had gastric bypass surgery three years ago, and now I’m health but still overweight by BMI standards. I ran a half marathon this year, got certified to scuba dive and was a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. I still love to eat and cook, but I balance it with exercise and portion control. Gastric Bypass was the only thing that worked for me. I don’t recommend that anyone should have gastric bypass or make that decision lightly. It’s a very personal decision, and it does have some risks. It was the only thing that worked for me.

    My mom did everything in the world possible to help me lose weight and get healthy. Nothing worked. I think the only thing this mom can do is love her daughter. Accept her completely as she is today. Do what she can to build her self esteem. Stacey and Clinton always say “Dress for the body you have today, not the body you want.” Don’t hide foods or label them as bad because your daughter will just eat them outside the house. If your daughter can lose weight, only she can do it. No one can force her. And you probably should take her to an endocronologist who will do much more detailed blood testing. Your daughter may have insulin resistance, which makes losing weight very difficult and leads to type 2 diabetes.

    It’s a long hard road, but it can have a happy ending. I wish you and your daughter all the success in the world.

    • caitlin July 23, 2010, 10:13 am


      I love everything about this comment, especially “Accept her completely as she is today.” I should write that on an Operation Beautiful note. It’s so true. The power of acceptance is SO strong.

      And I think you’re spot on about getting her checked out by a doctor.

      I am so glad you are healthy and so active now! You rock!!!! 🙂 Scuba is so fun – I’m certified but I haven’t been in years!


  • Beth @ DiningAndDishing July 23, 2010, 10:12 am

    This is such a tough situation! My little sister was a bit overweight for a while in her teens and I know my parents stuggled with what to do about it. They didn’t want to push her into restricting her food intake or force her to work out. The whole thing can feel pretty helpless. I think the best thing to do is just love and support your kids and hope that this builds enough self esteem that food will no longer be a necessary friend. Eventually the change always has to come from within…

  • Anya @ Fitness & Sunshine July 23, 2010, 10:12 am

    I think that to overcome weight problems it takes more than just a healthy diet and exercise. The person losing weight must really understand and find reasons for why they are doing it. I think it would do well to put emphasis on health and strength when talking about weight issues with this girl. 🙂 I had unhealthy habits as a teenager myself but eventually realized that there needs to be an end to them because it was damaging my organs. There are health issues in my family that I simply don’t want to have and I want to do everything I can to live my life to the fullest, and be a strong, healthy person.

  • Katie July 23, 2010, 10:12 am

    My younger brother has been overweight.. he was through high school and he still is. My family has been nothing but supportive and encouraging (my dad exercising daily, me being a RD, my mom being healthy, etc.) It has come to the point where we don’t make a big deal about anything and he has to find the motivation within himself somewhere. There is only so much you can do as a parent (my dad offering him gym memberships, etc) and the rest becomes up to the child.

    Things especially became hard when my brother started to drive and work. This meant his had excess to money and a car — eating out became much more prevalent. My family always encouraged family meals, but with the rest of the siblings in college it became harder and harder to keep him “doing what the parents want” and instead “being a teenager.”

    There will come a time that this teenager in anonymous mom’s message will find that spark within herself.. hey maybe she’ll even email you and tell you her Tipping Point story when it happens 🙂

  • Kim July 23, 2010, 10:14 am

    When I was in high school, my mom and my aunt conspired behind my back to get me to lose weight. They talked to each other like human beings and left me in the cold, tricking me into diet and exercise programs. NOBODY ever really talked to me about how to make the changes and how to live healthier, just tricks and sneak attacks. To be honest, the whole thing still pisses me off, because it started me on the diet wagon that at 28 (10 years later) I’m still trying to break.

    My point – don’t trick her, don’t sneak around about it. Talk to her. Be up front. Ask her how you can help her be healthier. Don’t talk about how being overweight = sadness, because being skinny can equal sadness as well. And you really don’t know for sure if her sadness is because of her weight or from something else. I can’t tell from the letter if you are projecting sadness about weight for her or if she really feels it. But either way just talk to her like you wrote this letter – like you are concerned about her health and want to know what you can do to help her be healthy. Not by dieting (please please do not start the weight watchers wagon this early) but just by eating healthy and moving more. If she’s not ready to do it – you can’t force her. You could start the ED wagon or other problems. Just like any other issue people try to help others with (smoking, drugs, ect.) that person has to want to change before the changes take hold. And being preachy is of course, not great, but being sneaky is just as bad. Please just talk to her. I really always wished my mom just talked to me instead of going behind my back.

  • Trista July 23, 2010, 10:14 am

    I was very overweight as a teen and into my early twenties. I can completely relate to this girl. Unfortunately, my mom did everything that mom did. She worked out daily, fed us healthy food, all my older siblings were healthy weight. I hated being overweight, and I would try all the fad diets to lose weight. But I wanted immediate results. When I didn’t get them, I gave up, usually within a week. Finally, after graduating college, I can’t even say what changed, but I realized I needed to change my lifestyle. I couldn’t drop the weight and then go back to how I was eating and living. It worked. I lost 60 pounds and now live a balanced life. I wish I could give this mom better advice, but it really is on the daughter to choose health. The mom should continue doing what she’s doing and be supportive, and like you suggested, invite the daughter to join her on fun excersising.

  • Tricia July 23, 2010, 10:16 am

    Ah! Such a heart breaking story. Just a reminder to help the girl keep a little perspective about high school and the leadership team. I remember trying out for cheerleading with my 3 best girlfriends in high school and they all made it and I did not. Talk about devestation at 15! However, looking back I realize that is probably the best thing that could have happened. Very hard to get a 15 year old to understand that in the moment but I think talking about it and letting her know that this too shall pass!

    I also think the overweight issue is a depper issue that needs to be addressed. She is not gaining weight without putting food in her mouth. (most of the time). So they need to talk about and get to the real meaning of what is going on. Not easy but necessary. There is a fine line that you must walk as the mom mentions to prevent any type of eating disorder but you must try and find that balance.

    She has to exercise in order to help with the weight and mom needs to really push that agenda. Biking, hiking, love the dog idea…something to get her moving for at least an hour a day.

    Food journaling is probably a good idea too in order to determine emotions associated with eating in order to try and figure out what is going on!

  • Nicole July 23, 2010, 10:16 am

    I think your first point is 100% correct- improving her self esteem, and learning to feel good about herself probably needs to come before the weight loss. I know that when I felt terrible about myself and how I looked, I couldn’t motivate myself to do the right things. I didn’t feel like I was “worth” the work- and when I did exercise or eat healthy, it just reminded me of how terrible I felt about myself. Once I got over that, and started loving myself (sounds corny, but is true and necessary) I could get excited and being healthy, and more importantly, enjoy being active.

    I would also recommend trying something other than the usual going to the gym, or going running. There are lots of other activites that promote fitness and physical health- and if you find one you really enjoy, then you are more likely to stick with it. There’s kick boxing, dancing (salsa, belly dance, zumba- you name it) etc. etc. Dancing did a lot to improve my self esteem- I did salsa and bellydance, and all the teachers I had were great at promoting self-esteem, and the idea that all women, of all ages, shapes and sizes, are sexy and beautiful

  • Heather July 23, 2010, 10:17 am

    has anyone seen those shows where they take your weight and sheow you what you willlook likewhere you will e in 20 years if you continue on teh same path? they seem to ahve a pretty powerful affect. Maybe if she had a straight talk with a dr. abut where she will be ad what kinds of problems she will face?

    I agree about trying to engage in physical activity, go play tennis, go for a walk, hike up a mountain, so swimming, anything to get he heart rate up. Dancing even!

    who does she hang out with? are her friends overweight? what does she eat at lunch, is she getting cokes out of teh vending machine, etc?

  • Daniel July 23, 2010, 10:18 am

    I was obese up until 9th grade when something clicked and I began the downward spiral in the opposite direction toward anorexia. I’m not trying to frighten her by any means, I’m actually really happy that she’s concerned and trying to get help now before anything bad happens. I stopped eating and began worrying about everything I ate. It was to the point where every calorie and food was written down and each piece of food (vegetables included) were weighed on a scale to make sure I was eating “enough but not too much.”

    A lot of good advice has already been passed along through this post but again
    – Find something physical that she enjoys doing. If someone learns to incorporate “exercise” with “strenuous crap I don’t like to do” they’re not going to want to do it.
    – Continue the healthy eating encouragement. My parents eat like crap and still do for the most part; I had to teach myself completely how to eat and it’s only now, after 6 years that I’m finally learning everything correctly. The “special-K diet” that I began with (2 bowls of cereal and a less than 600 cal dinner?!) was nowhere near enough fuel for what I needed. Just make sure that she doesn’t end up becoming obsessed with food.
    – Try not to focus on the # on the scale. I recently stopped weighing myself after I got back from Greece and I couldn’t be happier. I used to stress out over single pound gains, even when I knew it was for the best and that I needed it. Now I do my best to listen to how I feel rather than what a number says – Your weight is a number, not a definition of character.
    – Try to find others in her position or peers she can surround herself with for encouragement. I don’t remember ever getting a compliment (whether people didn’t care or were too scared to say anything I don’t know) and it kept me working harder and harder to becoming thin because I figured that was what people wanted. If she’s around people who are promoting the “thin is healthy” idea that our society thrives on it may hurt her more than anything.

    I know I didn’t provide a lot of advice for what can be done now but I hope that this helps in any way shape or form and that maybe I could have assisted in preventing someone from having to go down the same road that I did. I wish the best for both of you. ^_^

  • Greta July 23, 2010, 10:18 am

    There’s so much I want to say on this subject, but I’m going to try and keep it as brief as possible.. thank you for sharing this letter with your readers, Caitlin!

    First, I can definitely relate to the teen in this letter. I was overweight (but didn’t qualify as “obese”) as a teenager, and my moods fluctuated as often as my weight did. My self-esteem, like so many other young people, was directly related to my appearance, and it was only when I stopped associating my looks with my self-worth, that I was able to let go a bit.

    That being said, it sounds like both mom and daughter might benefit by looking into websites/books such as Health at Every Size, which focuses on healthy behaviors and size acceptance, rather than weight loss. By taking an approach that isn’t so image-based, the daughter may be able to release some of the negative feelings she harbors about herself.

    I also definitely agree with other responses about the family doing activities together, and talking to a therapist or counselor. I wish them luck!

  • Christina July 23, 2010, 10:19 am

    What a tough situation. One other suggestion would be a site like peertrainer… she could join a group with others in the same situation as her, instead of being in a weightwatchers type of setting. Maybe it would be a way to get support without the committment of a blog (which would be hard for most teenagers to really stick with).

  • Lyndsey July 23, 2010, 10:20 am

    Although I didn’t struggle with any weight issues in Highschool, I did begin to become active and healthier my senior year, to firm up before prom. My mother was 100 percent behind me and helped me pack healthy lunches. I believe this mom is doing everything in her power. I do wonder, if the family is eating so healthy, even without exercise, she should have lost some weight by now.

    As someone with many endocrine problems, I would definitely suggest getting her checked out for everything, because this may not be her fault, or her decision. It could be anything from her Thyroid, to Cortisol, to Prolactin, Creatine…anything!

    Also, don’t bother her about it, just love her. And I agree with the others, ask her to come on a walk with you once in a while. Small changes eventually turn into big ones. I hope your daughter finds peace within herself soon so she can enjoy the beautiful person she already is, regardless of her size! Good luck!

    • Cyclist Kate July 23, 2010, 10:24 am

      As a person who was diagnosed as hypothyroid at 15, I agree that it can be wise to get these things checked out. HOWEVER, I’m not sure of how to do this without it coming off as “we’re taking you to the doctor to find out why you’re fat.” I’m not meaning to suggest that this is what your comment is implying, but it could be kind of a sticky situation…it might be wise for the mom to decide whether there are enough other symptoms of these disorders to warrant a doctor’s visit before putting the daughter through all of these tests.

      • Laura July 23, 2010, 11:18 am

        I agree with the “we’re taking you to the doctor to find out why you’re fat” thought… perhaps she could talk to her daughter’s primary care physician and then take her in for an annual physical? The doctor might be able to make a referral and then it’s an “outsider” making the recommendation versus her mother making the recommendation. Also, a primary care doctor might be able to provide some general advice to the daughter that could, perhaps, be a starting point for open dialog.

  • Christina July 23, 2010, 10:20 am

    oh, and I really like the idea of getting new clothes/ a new haircut! Something to make her feel good about herself without making it about losing weight.

  • Marie-Sophie July 23, 2010, 10:20 am

    I think introducing her daughter to the blog world would be a great start healthwise!! It’s always hard to find some good role models nowadays and well, a mother isn’t always a chosen role model for a daughter – at this age girls are more open if the person is their age, I think!

    I personally got a lot from the blog world and it’s just easier to click through pages first, reading up on things, gathering information and just shooting an e-mail to someone who went through the same thing, rather than having to take the courage to ask questions you might feel uncomfortable with one-on-one!

    I found Ashley’s blog at some point – she is in her twenties and did the whole weight watchers thing:

    And now she is a Weight watchers leader!! And beautiful and healthy and happy!

    All the best for both of them!!

  • Rachel July 23, 2010, 10:21 am

    I was overweight in high school but my mom was NEVER preachy or even mentioned anything about my weight whatsoever. Her mom was always hard on her about her weight, and she didn’t want to do the same thing to me.

    To this day, she has never ever ever said anything negative about my weight. I am thankful for that, but I also had absolutely no idea that what I was doing was unhealthy (and both my parents are overweight and struggle with a variety of other health problems). It wasn’t until I was in college that I even considered myself overweight (even though I was) and went on to lose 40 lbs using Weight Watchers.

    I think the only way I was successful was because my family was so un-preachy and never made me feel bad about myself. My self-esteem was soaring when I joined Weight Watchers, and I attribute my success with the program to the LACK of guilty feelings and troubling thoughts with eating.

    I did Weight Watchers’ online program. Perhaps that would be more comfortable of a solution to her, since she has some anonymity and privacy that way.

    Also, I agree with the suggestions to just find ways to be active in any form (maybe the mother and daughter can sign up for a race together like Race for the Cure). Regardless of whether it helps her specifically lose weight, just being active will boost confidence and those endorphines never hurt anybody 😉

    Great post today, as usual.

  • Amanda July 23, 2010, 10:21 am

    First of all, I think it is wonderful that this mom recognizes that the way that she approaches the issue of her daughter’s weight could lead to bigger issues. I really think it’s important for her to help her daughter find a hobby that she loves – that is both active and provides a self-esteem boost. In high school my friend and I loooved taking jazzercise and kickboxing classes at the gym. Yoga is very therapeutic and it is easy to see improvements in your strength and flexibility quickly. I also really liked the suggestion of signing up for a fundraising walk/run together.

  • Cassandra July 23, 2010, 10:21 am

    I sympathize with this girl. I was in the same position. The exact same position.

    The first thing I would recommend is a trip to the doctor to rule out a medical cause for her daughter’s resistance to weight loss. Then, I’d really recommend finding a gym and a personal trainer who specializes in working with young adults. Even though I’m not a teenager anymore, the self-esteem issues from a lifetime of being overweight follow me around, and it wasn’t until I started working with a trainer that I learned the value of having someone who was focused on me, who was positive and enthusiastic about fitness, and who believed in me. And being around someone who believes in you, who pushes you because they know you’re capable of more, will push you to believe in yourself.

    It also sounds like this girl is a over-achiever, and from experience, that personality succeeds with the one-on-one attention a trainer can provide.

  • Kelly July 23, 2010, 10:24 am

    All the moms efforts to cook healthy foods and only keep healthy foods in the house may backfire. My younger sister has a friend whose mom does the same thing, and she feels so restricted and controlled at home, that the second she is not under her moms watch she binges. She’ll come to our house and eat a pint of ice cream, or chips and queso dip, but to her mom she’s eating healthy at home.

    It’s important to encourage healthy eating behavior without making the person feel controlled or bad about wanting a snack.

  • KitKat1126 July 23, 2010, 10:26 am

    I think a lot of people mentioned it but finding an activity that will both mentally and physically make her feel stronger will be so beneficial! While it’s nice for the Mom to partake in activity with the daughter I remember being 15 and honestly…I wanted to be with my friends. But if your self-esteem is low enough that’s hard too because you don’t want to be surrounded by a bunch of girls your own age. If she can find a sport or activity with kids her own age that she feels comfortable with that could help.

    It might also help for her to have somewhat of a “mentor”. Does she have an older cousin, family friend, babysitter, anyone she looks up but is closer to her age? I know that honestly when I had hard times in middle school/high school my older sister or babysitters were the ones I really opened up to. Not because my Mom wasn’t wonderful but I was able to really open up more to people who were closer to my age and who I knew had recently gone through similar tough times.

    Also joining the blog world is a great idea! If she could connect with some goal-oriented people it could really motivate her and make her feel supported to focus on herself, getting healthy and raising her self esteem.

  • Valerie July 23, 2010, 10:26 am

    I was in a similar situation as a teenager. I found volunteering (at a local hospital) to be very therapeutic – it helped me realize I couldn’t take my physical and emotional health for granted. It also helped me realize my “power” and how important I could be to other people — which did wonders for my self-esteem. Maybe they could volunteer together? I liked the idea to walk dogs for a local shelter!

    In hindsight, I would also recommend this girl’s Mom suggest they sign up for a “Learn To Run” program like they offer at Running Room here in Canada. The running slowly increases each week – it’s challenging and very rewarding to run the 5K goal race at the end! It’s also a great bonding experience if you do something like that together.

    I wish Mom & Daughter all the best!

  • Ilana July 23, 2010, 10:26 am

    I’ve worked with teenagers for a few years now and have definitely dealt with their parents. Sometimes, the parents trying to help puts so much extra strain on the kid to live up to their parents expectations that it just backfires, despite the best of intentions. When I was a teenager, I self injured, and the more my mom tried to do something about it, the more I did it, because SHE was causing so much extra stress in my life. Mothers cause so many issues, especially for young girls who have a mother who is “exemplary” and admirable in some way – and especially when the girl sees herself in such a negative light.

    Being a teenager is a shitty time for ANYONE, skinny, fat, tall, short, gorgeous, awkward, jock, nerd… EVERYONE has issues. I think that parents tend to forget that fact, or if it’s possible, many parents DID grow up in a simpler time than today – depression is so common among teens and no one talks about it or deals with it, but we live in extraordinarily abnormal times, things are very difficult to grasp, between the high speed of the internet age, the constant media attention on all the “bad things” that happen in the world, and of course CONTINUOUS media attention on Americans, their diets, and their body images! It’s enough to make anyone crazy! I’d tell mom to step back, and be honest with HERSELF – who is she REALLY trying to fix here, and is her continuous involvement really beneficial?

    I once dealt with a parent who came to me about her daughter’s self injury and she made a comment that “we all go to family counselling, and we go in with Jessica to her therapy meetings as well.” I was taken aback by that because it made it so abundantly clear to me why Jessica was continuing to self injure – she wanted something of her OWN, her own privacy and her own space to be damaged and to grow, and she didn’t even have a place in therapy, so of course she turned it all inward.

    Being a teenager sucks. Eventually you grow out of it. I’m definitely nothing like I was when I was a teen – depressed, repressed, introverted, manic.

    I would just recommend trying to find activities that boost the girl’s self esteem and that have nothing to do with weight-loss, health, whatever, unless that’s what attracts her. The more focus she gets on her weight, the more it begins to define her, and the more difficult it will be for her to shed that security blanket.

  • Rebekah @ Rebeltarian July 23, 2010, 10:27 am

    I was really overweight in highschool and for most of my teenage years. My mom encourgaged me in many of the same ways as this mom, but she never pushed anything. She never made me feel bad about my weight. She sometimes talked about how I would feel better if I exercised, but pretty much it wasn’t a topic we talked about.

    I have come to the conclusion, (after losing almost 100 pounds) that I didn’t make a lifestlye change until I was ready. Not my mom, friends or anyone else, just me. I think that she can encourage her daughter, but I think many times that ‘encouragement’ can just cause children to sink deeper into their bad habits, because they feel like failures.

    I think everyone has to discover their own healthy tipping point on their own.

    • Valerie July 23, 2010, 4:05 pm

      Excellent point!

  • Brandy July 23, 2010, 10:29 am

    I was overweight until my mid twenties. My mom did everything she could to help me lose weight and it only made me resent her more and fuel my feelings that I wasn’t good enough for her. No one is overweight because they don’t know the right things to eat or know the right portions. Everyone knows exercising and moving more burn calories. Not rocket science. Weight is an emotional issue and until she gets to the bottom of it, it will always be there.
    My only suggestion would be to see if she would try some counseling and have mom lay off. The best thing you can do is be a good example and see the good in your daughter.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) July 23, 2010, 10:30 am

    Wow, this is really unfortunate and sad. Definitely a place where things could go wrong. I was not over weight as a teen and had self esteem issues, so having both has got to be hard. The mom should definitely encourage her daughter to go on walks with her. That is a great way to talk and get exercise. Another thing she can do is get her daughter involved in the kitchen. My boys are younger that her, but we cook together all the time. They learn about what is good for you and what is not. It is another way to engage her daughter in healthy living. You can’t just do for them, they have to get involved too. I know this sounds bad, but parents are a key component to self esteem. You can’t control how others treat you. My grandfather was not very careful with what he said to women. He nicknamed my mother “fat cow” and me “fat cow #2”. Like I said, I was not over weight, but I had thighs. I was curvy. This was hard on me and now every woman in my family has issues with their body image. Positive reinforcement in everything along with having the daughter cook and workout with her are great for building confidence.

  • Caroline July 23, 2010, 10:31 am

    I think she should try setting a goal such as joining the local swim team or running group. Bonding with other people can help with the support. I ran XC and Track, and I was more the slow turtle than the speedy hare, but my teammates were so supportive. It helped boost my self esteem. High school is tough, but once you find something you love and enjoy to do, your self-worth will increase. Find a sport, get involved, and don’t give up hope. There is something for everyone. Volunteering is definitely a great way to become active and improve self-esteem as well!

  • Christina July 23, 2010, 10:31 am

    I think the most important thing the mom can do is take weight loss out of her relationship with her daughter. I’m sure the daughter knows she has a weight issue and no matter how positive the mom is it will seem like a criticism or a reminder of ‘oh yeah I need to lose weight and everyone thinks I’m fat’.

    Personally I would say keep offering healthy foods and setting a healthy example and just focus on improving her self-esteem. Tell her why she’s great, tell her the colour she’s wearing looks good on her, find activities that interest her and encourage her to get involved regardless of how active they are.

    Lastly get together to do activities as a family. Whether it’s going for a walk after dinner or involving the kids in preparing healthy meals make it about being together not about losing weight.

  • Kara July 23, 2010, 10:33 am

    I was overweight all through high school and completely understand what the daughter is going through. I had (and still have) bad self esteem related to my weight issues. I essentially had a “tipping point” at 15. I had a cousin’s wedding to go to in the summer and went shopping for a dress. Coming up empty in “regular” stores, my mom and I ventured into a plus-size store. At 15, this was the most horrifying experience of my life. It was terrifying to realize I had to shop in a “fat girl’s store”. This is what pushed me towards losing the weight.

    What I guess I’m getting at is that the daughter has to find her own point when she realizes her weight issues need to be taken care of. Her self esteem issues may never fully go away (all of us have our own scars no matter our size) but she has to first come to terms with her weight.

    As many above have said, doing exercise together might be a great solution. Walks around the neighbourhood or a fundraising day/run could do wonders for their relationship and also help the daughter cherish the time together, making exercise fun and rewarding. I wish I had better advice but it really comes down to the daughter’s own willpower. Best of luck to both mother and daughter!

  • Cyclist Kate July 23, 2010, 10:34 am

    I struggled with very low self esteem as a teen; my weight was a symptom of this, not a cause.

    I’m a fairly independent person. As much as I wished that my family was uber-healthy so I wouldn’t have to take on the responsibility of getting healthy myself (say, “if only my parents had gotten me into running at an early age, if only my parents had no baked goods/chips/cereal/bread, etc. in the house”), I now realize that 1) my family WAS healthy (active, fairly unprocessed diet) and 2) my family being different wouldn’t have necessarily helped me learn how to love and take care of myself–that had to come from within.

    I hate to say it, but this may just be something the daughter has to find her own way out of. My teen years were fairly painful, but I am so, so grateful for them because that pain forced me to find a way out, and that journey is responsible for the (kick-ass) woman I am today. And although the daughter might not have a stubborn/independent streak quite as strong as mine, as a teen it was really difficult to listen to my parents encourage me to do anything–that just made me want to do the opposite!

    What I might try (and I say this with quite a bit of hesitation, since I don’t know this family) is for the mom to say, “honey, I love you and think you are so incredibly beautiful” and to leave it at that. No encouraging to exercise, letting the daughter control what kinds of food she wants access to (15 is old enough for the daughter to be making all of her food choices, including what kinds of food come into the house–considering whether it fits budget, of course), and leaving absolutely all of the judgment aside. If the mother has any hangups whatsoever about whether or not it is okay for a person to be large or overweight, she needs to get into therapy and work through those so she can 100% accept and love her daughter, without wishing her daughter to be thinner. Weight does not correlate to self-esteem–self-esteem comes from within. It’s the mother’s job to help the daughter build her self-esteem AS SHE IS, with absolutely not one thought to weight.

    Give the daughter autonomy. Let her make her own decisions, her own fumbles, and just be there to love her whenever she seeks out that love. Teen years are painful for a lot of people, and although it sucks, I really think we need to go through that pain to get to know ourselves and to grow.

    • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) July 23, 2010, 10:43 am

      This. I pretty much wrote this exact same comment when I scrolled up to read some more of the comments and saw this one. I think the mom needs to keep setting a good example, but the self-esteem is the real issue here. Once she gains some self-esteem, the weight issue will even itself out.

      “It’s the mother’s job to help the daughter build her self-esteem AS SHE IS” — that needs to be repeated over and over.

    • Paula July 23, 2010, 3:28 pm

      I agree 100% with this. Great advice.

  • meghan July 23, 2010, 10:34 am

    As a guidance counselor, I would recommend that Mom have her daughter first get checked out by her pediatrician. A head-t-toe physical to rule out or discover any medical issues the daughter is dealing with (i.e. a thyroid issue). But I would also recommend the pediatrician do a screening for depression—because my first thought when reading this story was that the daughter sounds like she’s depressed. Perhaps it’s that the weight is causing the depression—some cycle of eating while sad, sad because she eats—but it could be something deeper, or there could be other factors contributing to the daughter’s lack of self-esteem that aren’t as easy to notice as weight gain is.

    Maybe hearing from her doctor (not her mom) that she needs to work on viewing herself more positively may help. I also think that if the daughter is willing to see a therapist (who specializes in adolescent issues) over time she’ll be better able to not turn to food for comfort when she needs something else. Talking with a therapist may also help her learn to handle disappointments and setbacks with more perspective. It’s also possible that if she feels like the only thing her mom focuses on with her, she’s embarrassed about her size and feels like everyone sees her negatively so she might as well too.

    I would encourage mom to engage both daughters in healthy activities like going for walks after dinner—if the 15-y-o feels like it’s something fun their doing together the exercise might not seem so much like work. Doing volunteer work (especially with animals) is a great esteem booster. I agree that reading healthy living blogs (such as HTP) is a great motivator to want to participate in a more healthy lifestyle; and if the daughter is more writing inclined herself, encourage her to write one—noting that she can make it private so others can’t read it unless she wants them to see it.

  • Anne July 23, 2010, 10:35 am

    Throughout elementary school, junior high, and high school, I danced up to 5 days per week. I also had horrible eating habits. My mom was concerned, but didn’t want to send me any negative messages, especially since we all know the occurance of anorexia in dancers. I’m glad this mom also realizes that downward spiral.

    As you said, I don’t think the emphasis should necessarily be “to lose weight”, since that can get someone into a diet mentality which I still struggle with today.

    However, I do think that the mom should encourage the daughter to engage in some physical activity. Try a dance class, join the track and field team (throwing shot put does not require you to weigh 100 lbs), powder puff football, tennis lessons, swim team. Some sort of physical activity and/or team sport should get her up and moving as well as improve her self esteem by being supported by her peers.

  • Alyssa July 23, 2010, 10:40 am

    my cousin was also always very overweight and the fact that her mother always harped on this issue, made it even worse. if she knows what to do, then she is the only one who can make the decision to do it. there isn’t a need for the mom to keep brining the issue up, because it’s obviously in the girls face every single day. exercising together might be fun for both, but the mother cannot make it seem like she is only dragging her out to burn calories.

  • Alisha July 23, 2010, 10:40 am

    This mother could totally be my mom. I can definitely relate because I’m that other daughter. Growing up and even today, my sister has struggled with her weight and I know that when she looks at me, being the opposite, it like I’m rubbing it in her face. I know my sister has some self-esteem issues and I really wish that when we were growing up, that I embraced her more than pushed her away. Being the oldest and well, siblings, I guess our dynamic isn’t uncommon for sisters. However, if I could go back after knowing what I know now, I would want to be there more for my sister so she wouldn’t feel as hurt and alone as she did or does. Perhaps, if the mother asked the other sister to be more involved with her other sister, then her self-esteem may rise from the support. Perhaps if they went for walks together and did other healthy activities, something wonderful could happen, for her health and their relationship. It couldn’t hurt, could it?

  • Heather (Heather's Dish) July 23, 2010, 10:40 am

    this is really hard…i remember my parents mentioned that i was overweight when i was younger and i totally took that and ran with it straight into disoredered eating. HOWEVER, i think it’s all about how you approach it. what if mom and daughter worked out TOGETHER? there are tons of studies that show that working out increases psychological and emotional happiness.

    either way, i’m definitely praying for and thinking about these women…they are both beautiful and just need to KNOW it 🙂

  • April July 23, 2010, 10:40 am

    She probably won’t lose weight unless she really wants to. There’s not much the mom can do except continue to be the best example.

  • NySoonerGirl July 23, 2010, 10:42 am

    I wonder if therapy would help. It sounds as if she knows what she should do and is unhappy with the way things are, yet she’s unwilling to change given the opportunity. It makes me think there’s more here than just her choosing not to exercise or to choose less healthy options. I remember years ago reading that sometimes victims of abuse gain weight in a subconscious effort to make sure no one touches them. If there were a situation like this in her past, therapy would benefit her greatly.

  • Elaine July 23, 2010, 10:42 am

    Being a teenager is so hard! I am a high school teacher and I would say (from my experience) that kids just want to be accepted by their parents and hear that they are doing a good job. So my advice would be to not worry so much about the weight, and focus on the positive qualities that this young lady has. Tell her how proud you are of her academic work. Tell her how beautiful she is. Tell her what a caring person she is. Tell her what you admire about her. Just let her feel all your love no matter what size she is.

    And maybe something like a yoga class would be a good introduction for exercise. Yoga does a good job of highlighting the fact that we are all in different places and it is okay to be satisfied with yourself in this exact moment.

    Many times it is really hard for teenagers to communicate their feelings. This is so hard for other adults because teenagers look “adult,” when in reality they are still kids who need a lot of guidance, support, and reassurance.

  • Tracy July 23, 2010, 10:43 am

    Most teenagers go through self-esteem issues in high school, I sure did. While I was a swimmer and lacrosse player my weight often fluctuated. I was lazy during off seasons and I often skipped meals due to being so busy. One thing that got me moving was realizing my happiness was 100% related to how I felt and looked. Once I started going to the gym, walking more, and eating healtier I started feeling better about myself. Your body, skin and your mood changes. While it takes time it’s important for young woman to give themselves a break. Life is rough and eating often helps you zone out of all of that stress. I think it’s important for this mom to let her daughter live her life, and that in the end it is her decision to make a change. Pressing her to eat better, workout, etc, may end up having the reverse effect. Try including her on the healthy eats, workouts, etc… then maybe she won’t feel like you are trying so hard.

  • Abby July 23, 2010, 10:44 am

    I feel for this mom. When I was having issues as a teenager, my parents interviewed a ton of people and found me a nutritionist who was a young, super sweet girl who I ended up looking up to as a role model. She wasn’t just a nutritionist, though, she was a friend and someone to talk to… and slowly with her direction and friendship I began to feel better. I recommend looking for a nutritionist who you believe your daughter can relate to. Then, she has an outside support system and the advice of a person specializing in that field. Often times, I didn’t even know I was changing my eating habits. It just happened.

  • Annie July 23, 2010, 10:44 am

    I’m not sure if the daughter is involved in any clubs or extra-activity. Finding something she enjoys, even if it has nothing to do with exercise, could be the first step in boosting her self-esteem. Art, singing, math-club? I found the more I had to do (funwise), the less likely I was to eat because I was bored.

  • Stacy July 23, 2010, 10:53 am

    I was about 50 pounds overweight through much of high school. I thought that in order to lose weight I would have to live off of very little food and that the only exercise I needed was “Sweatin’ to the Oldies,” which barely worked up a sweat. I would get so hungry, I’d binge. I was also bored and stressed, and when I was home after school alone I’d eat non stop. Trust me, if you want to eat badly enough, you’ll find food to eat… even if there’s nothing good in the house. (This is when I discovered peanut butter tastes amazing straight out of the jar). And there was nothing my parents could do or say that would help me. If they had, it may have made it worse. At that stubborn age, you’ll only do it on your own terms.

    When I started doing things after school (namely working), I started to lose weight without trying because I had less time to eat. Are there any activities she can do outside of the house after school that don’t scream “we’re trying to help you lose weight?” Any volunteer opportunities that are on the more active side? There was no way I would have felt comfortable participating in team sports, but I really liked walking at the track and on the trails – with my mom, but mostly by myself.

  • Jae July 23, 2010, 10:53 am

    Im a teen right now and I can sympathize with the girl because it is REALLy hard being one. One thing that makes a light in my days is really opening up to other people and having friends that you can really joke around with. When Im having a bad day, Facebook and the friends who are in my list never fail to bring me back up from the slump. So i suggest that she open up to new people and let them in her life. I opened up just last year (my junior year) and the outpouring of love and support was phenomenal. Also, find a club that you LOVE, and then drop the club you cant stand. I found utter love in Mu Alpha Theta and dropped out of Academic Games because I just wasnt feeling it. Best decision ever. <– less stress, more love.

    Also, physical activity. Decreases appetite (for me, I dont know about anyone else) and endorphin rush majorly.

    And last thing, DONT TAKE CLASSES YOU DONT LOVE. <— major (about 10 lbs over the course of 3 months!) and stressed people all around me. Yeah, She's a straight A student… so am I, but sometimes, it just isnt worth it. Study, but dont lose your focus and who you're meant to be.

    Hope this helps.

  • Jessica July 23, 2010, 10:54 am

    Nothing boosts self-esteem like setting a goal and achieving it! This mother and daughter could sign up for a 5K walk, set a goal finish time and train together leading up to it. Events like that can be addicting cause they’re so fun which will only lead to more exercise for them both. I also agree that seeing a nutrionist or wellness coach could be very beneficial. That way mom doesn’t have to feel “preachy” all the time.

  • Kate July 23, 2010, 10:56 am

    Maybe this mom should try being a little more aggressive, since her daughter is not at a healthy weight. When I was thirteen I got slightly chubby, and in my opinion my mom went too far to “help” me: she took food away from my (in front of my friends, which was so embarassing), she taught me to count calories, she made me order salads, and she made me feel guilty when I didn’t exercise. A year later I weighed 96lbs and ran 6miles a day for the track and cross-country teams . . . I was bordering on anorexic and had a terrible relationship with food. I had to rehabilitate myself, and I still struggle with guilty feelings when I skip a run or eat a cupcake.

    So, there is a very fine line to walk here . . . although this situation is a little different since her daughter really does need to lose weight.

  • Sara July 23, 2010, 10:56 am

    Volunteering at a local animal shelter, walking dogs, sounds awesome! That might help boost her self esteem, doing something for others. Always makes me feel better! I know all about low self-esteem, but it mainly something only you can fix yourself! This is a difficult issue, because SHE has to be the one who wants to change … maybe if a friend talks to her or helps her … and not her mom?

  • Angela July 23, 2010, 10:58 am

    This is so hard and there is such a fine line. My niece just went through a similar thing (but in college dealing with sorority). She isn’t overweight, but she isn’t the stick thin blonde you see in sorority. My sister wanted to help Emily, but in the end she realized that any advice or words of support were better coming from me and my sisters. We are closer to her age, and she isn’t trying to get our approval. One of the best things her mother could do would be to encourage her to get involved. For Emily, joining the theatre group helped her build her self esteem and it was something she enjoyed. Once her self esteem was established, she cared more about herself and started to treat herself better all around. I think that the daughter needs to improve her self esteem first. Once she feels more comfortable with who she is, she will be more confident in addressing other issues – like her weight.

  • Chelsey July 23, 2010, 10:58 am

    I know from being a teenager just a few years ago that it is tough. It is even tougher when your mom is preaching at you (which this mom is not – thank goodness!). Any form of constructive critism is looked at as an attack, especially when self esteem is at an all time low. I think this girl needs a good dose of Operation Beautiful! 🙂

    I think finding a good group of friends or a hobby to fill up time would definitely boost her self esteem. I would say I am the most happy when surrounded with friends, family, (and food haha!)

    There is nothing the mom can do or say to “make” her daughter lose weight. It has to come within!

  • Jae July 23, 2010, 10:59 am

    1. Dont take classes you dont love. The stress isnt worth it, and you negatively impact the people around you. Dont over load yourself with AP classes (I did this last year, KILLER)if you’re not going to be happy. The stress got to me, the all nighters got to me, and I ended up gaining back 10 pounds putting me 10 pounds over my happy weight

    2. Open up and let others see your bright personality. I did this last year, and the outpouring of love and support sustained me through the last trying months of my junior year and into this summer. Whenever Im down, I go on facebook, hit up my friends, tell them I love them and miss them mucho, and the love comes back full force. It’s the greatest.

    I dropped Academic Games after 3 years and one national championships. Best decision ever. I became Mu Alpha Theta secretary instead and it’s the most amazing activity that Ive been privileged to be involved in.

  • Liz July 23, 2010, 11:00 am

    She should consider joining the Girl Scouts or at least using some of their resources. The Girl Scout mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. She should check out her local Girl Scout Council (visit to find it) and she can check out programs they offer like the Uniquely ME! program, co-founded by the Dove Self-Esteem Fun.

    I believe in the power that Girl Scouting can have on a girl if she can find the right group to feel comfortable with. It’s an incredible organization with almost 100 years of experience dealing with girls.

    Tell her to check it out!

  • Julie July 23, 2010, 11:01 am

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments so someone may have said this, but she could consider the online only Weight Watchers. You never have to attend a meeting, you weigh in on your own at home and there are tons of online chat rooms and message boards, several of which are broken down into age ranges. I’m sure she could find some online friends going through the same thing. With the WW points approach she can eat healthfully and normally and learn good health guidelines for nutrition and portion control. No, I don’t work for WW but have personally long been an online member and recommend it highly.

  • Marissa July 23, 2010, 11:02 am

    Suggestions from a teenager who was previously overweight and has gone through an eating disorder: get her in a sport (having other teens to work out with makes it FUN), get her an active job (animal shelters or horse barns are great), give her chores to keep her moving when she’s home (vacuuming, dusting, window washing), encourage her to do simple exercises like situps, pushups, and lunges during TV commercials (do them with her), and most importantly praise any positive change. Praise, praise, praise. I lived on praise while I was losing weight (actually one of the major reasons it escalated into an ED; I wanted to make everyone proud of me since I couldn’t do my sport because of my back injury and I couldn’t excel in school because it was summer vacation.) Keeping her busy is really the best. Working will give her a better attitude and make her feel more accomplished, and if she’s anything like me, she will naturally want to do more things to have that feeling (like losing weight.) However, I would NOT suggest pushing her to get up earlier and work out before school. Hah, even I never went that far! We like to sleep. ;]

  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman July 23, 2010, 11:04 am

    That’s so so hard. There’s a fine line between making them feel bad for their weight and trying to help. My husband’s 12-year-old cousin is very overweight and it’s hard to know whether to try to help or let it slide since it’s not really our business.

  • Katie July 23, 2010, 11:04 am

    I agree that when you have nothing to do after school, eating is the next best thing and that was what most of my peers turned to and (while I work in a restaurant currently) what I see now. You said that she is in the band, Marching Band season is now and it really is a sport if you watch them. They work really hard. Also getting a job so that you are occupied, but not overly stressed is a good way of getting out of the house and staying busy.

    But otherwise I would agree that her mom is doing a good job of not putting emphasis on her weight, having an eating disorder myself. I sympathize with her because no matter what you look like, high school is hard. She is a straight A student and that will take her so far. She has so much going for her, but she has to realize that and start taking care of herself.

    I would recommend getting her into some kind of therapy for the self esteem. There are a lot of really good programs for teenagers and its really good to deal with it now then let it continue on into adulthood.

  • Wei-Wei July 23, 2010, 11:05 am

    I’ve never been severely overweight, but I am glad that Anonymous Mother thought of eating disorders. It sounds like this girl might be upset at her weight, and I would definitely want her to lose weight the HEALTHY way. Physical exercise is important, but building up self esteem beforehand could be key. Don’t emphasise weight loss – emphasise healthy living. Tell her to read Caitlin’s blog and try out some of the recipes and workouts herself! Healthy living bloggers are great examples to learn from.


  • Maddie July 23, 2010, 11:06 am

    I lost 80 pounds in the last year – most of it during the summer before my senior year of high school (I just graduated in May, finally!). It’s hard to lose a lot of weight in high school – people are usually a lot nicer and it seems very superficial. I felt pretty lonely at times – I felt like people only liked me more because I was thinner.

    Anyway, one thing that helped me during the last year was having my mom around. She was always ready to offer advice when I needed it, but when I didn’t want any, she was ready to simply sit and listen to me rant and rave about my issues, without offering any criticisms. While obviously diet and exercise are the way to go for weight loss, having someone around to support you really makes all the difference :).

  • Diana July 23, 2010, 11:08 am

    I love all the ideas of Mother/Daughter fitness activities (5Ks, group fitness, etc).

    I also think that if the daughter could find something that was a form of exercise without it feeling like exercise, it could really work out. If she is reaching for a goal and the goal isn’t to lose weight or exercise but maybe to run a 5K or start up a new hobby that happens to be very active, she can focus on the positives of reaching a new goal without having to think so much about the negative energy that probably surrounds her weight and the idea of exercise. She could train with her mom for a 5K. She could take up tae kwon do (which I’ve heard is very good for growing self-confidence) and focus on getting one belt, then the next, then the next. This would enable her to focus positive energy that makes her feel like she’s achieving something for herself but that also has the physical activity as a bonus. She could both become more fit and gain more confidence. 🙂

    Best of luck to the daughter and mother!

  • Kelly July 23, 2010, 11:12 am

    I would suggest maybe joining a team of some sort, like softball? I know most towns have leagues that are open to everyone. Being on any type of team is great support and can really boost self esteem! At the same time she’ll be exercising in a fun way!

  • Shannon July 23, 2010, 11:15 am

    My heart goes out to this girl and her mother. I remember my obese teen years very well. Deep down I knew that my mother’s attempt to “help” were out of love, but I couldn’t help feeling resentful and judged. I specifically remember my 8 year old checkup, when my mother asked my doctor what she should do about my weight. The doctor advised against dieting at such a young age because it could lead to eating disorders. My mother found a different pediatrician and started me on “the carbohydrate-addict’s diet.” Hello BED! I know that she loves me so much and that she was trying to save me from the hardships of growing up overweight (she herself was obese as well).

    Caitlin, I agree that it is more important for this girl to work on loving herself than on losing weight. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I can tell you what I wish my mother had done: I wish she had enrolled me in therapy. The food (and therefore weight) issues are not the problem, they are a SYMPTOM of the problem. I know it’s expensive, but so are diet programs and gyms, and I think that the inner healing will have a much longer lasting effect. I will keep this family in my prayers! I hope she comes across an OB note that makes her smile 🙂

  • Lauren July 23, 2010, 11:16 am

    I’m struggling with a very similar situation with my sister. She is in her junior year of college, has always struggled with her weight and the self esteem issues that go with it, and since being in college has gone full blown into binge drinking mode. She recently moved in with me and I saw it as an opportunity to try to help her. I know she doesn’t respond to preaching so I have been very careful to help her suddely. I invite her to the gym EVERY time I go (usually 3-5 times a week), I cook a healthy dinner for her every night and pack her lunch most days. I purposefully don’t buy treats but I make banana soft serve for her (her request b/c she loves it). And she had lost 6 pounds within a couple of weeks after moving in. The problem is the second that her friends invite her out she drops the gym and goes. The second it gets late and she doesn’t want to think about packign a lunch she doesn’t and eats fast food. I could go on. I know that the committment and the change has to come from within. I know that the best thing I can do for her is to be the best example I can. But it is so hard to watch someone you love throw their life and the health to the wind. Breaks my heart a little to see her so miserable and doing it to herself the whole time.

  • Michelle @ Give Me the Almond Butter July 23, 2010, 11:17 am

    I love your tips Caitlin. My mom’s eating habits greatly affect me. She was ALWAYS drinking water, and cut soda out of her diet. So guess what? I cut soda and I started drinking lots of water. Some bad habits of hers I follow too. She is naturally a snacky person. She eats while she cooks and constantly through the day, but the limits the food on her meals. I’m naturally a big meal person and less snacky, so I started to snack like her but still ate big meals.

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape July 23, 2010, 11:20 am

    High school can really be a cruel place sometimes. Kids don’t have a notion of how their words and actions can hurt others. I’m sure it can’t be easy for her daughter. My suggestion would be to try to get her daughter involved at school. This might seem counterintuitive but perhaps if other kids actually got to know her they would identify her with parts of her personality and not just her weight. SHe doesn’t have to go and do this alone, either. She could join a club that one of her friends is in or even just enlist a friend’s help in joining one that interests her. I think this could help and as she mingled with more people her self esteem might get better.

    I think both of those suggestions you gave, Caitlin, are really good. Her mom should instigate walks and make that mother-daughter time. Have that be a special time for just her and her daughter where they talk. They don’t even have to talk about the weight issue or things weighing on her daughter’s mind. I think just getting her daughter talking will eventually lead to her opening up. The physical activity will just be an added bonus. Hopefully the walks could help her identify what exactly keeps her self esteem so low and they can go from there.

  • Megan July 23, 2010, 11:20 am

    I was overweight almost my whole life– post college finally tipping the scales over 200 pounds. In grad school, I started a weight loss journey during which I lost about 80 pounds. I was heavy all through high school, and experienced a fair amount of hurt over that from teasing and my own lack of confidence. My parents were not the healthiest eaters, but I know families that were far worse. While my parents would encourage good habits, they never pushed me or made me feel bad about myself. If I was upset about it, it was mostly pointed out to me that it was a choice.

    Now, I never came close to any bad medical side effects of my weight, and if I had, my parents might have handled it differently. But when I was in my early 20’s, I finally realized I wanted to make that choice. Until I wanted it, all my weight loss attempts in the past had been half-hearted and short-lived. As much as our parents may want something for us, it is up to the individual child. And the heartbreak of one situation might be her “switch” or it might not. Mom can encourage and support, but she can’t make her daughter want to lose weight.

  • Kristy July 23, 2010, 11:23 am

    Personally – I think a “pamper her day” is in order immediately! Maybe take her to get her hair cut, eye brows waxed, mani/pedi and new well fitting outfit. Does the girl have friends? Even if just one maybe they could tag along too put something positive and uplifting in this young girls world. Also, someone needs to boost her up and repeatedly point out all of the positive traits and attributes she has DAILY! It takes time and repetition, I know from experience.

    Maybe suggest a group sport? One at a rec center where it will be new maybe more open minded people than her peers at school? This is def a toughy…

    I truly hope this girl finds her way… We all get lost at some point, often we need just one single person or act or conversation to influence us to simply consider the greener side of life.

  • Tori July 23, 2010, 11:28 am

    My heart goes out to this girl, I would recommend maybe motivating her daughter with mini goals. It would help her if these goals are not related to her weight/body image. Something like maybe this week lets walk x number of miles and next week add few more. Celebrating after achieving her goals should help motivate her to keep continuing and challenging herself.

  • Sarah July 23, 2010, 11:29 am

    Oh, you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school. My heart goes out.

    I wonder if the two of them could try to take a cooking class together? It might be fun to experiment with some new healthy recipes, to start learning about different food options.

    I think it’s also important to remember why, as a mother, she is encouraging her daughter to be healthy and lose weight. She said she doesn’t want her to develop an eating disorder, so I can see her struggling with that already. I don’t think that there is one good answer! Maybe take an operation beautiful approach to their relationship – remind her every day that she is beautiful, no matter what size she is. Help her to embrace who she is as she tries to find a healthy balance in her life.

  • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair July 23, 2010, 11:29 am

    My younger brother who is 17 is the same way and my mom has a huge problem with it. But the more she urges him to go to the gym and quit drinking pop, the worse he seems to get.

    I agree with the commenter that said if the mom tries to urge her daughter to lose weight it will just make it worse. Losing weight is something that has to come from the daughter herself. Yes, maybe she can introduce her to the blog world or invite her on walks with her that could definitely help.

    I was a little overweight in middle school (looking back now I was just a little chubby) but I was teased terribly for it and I used to think I was so fat even though I wasn’t. It’s terrible to be different at that age and I really feel for this girl.

  • Jenna July 23, 2010, 11:32 am

    5’6 and 205 pounds is not “extremely” overweight. I’ve weighed around 200 at 5’2 for most of my adult life, and I have been confident and happy as a plum, not to mention very healthy and active. The truth is, no one feels confident in themselves as a teenager. Body positivity can go a long way right now.

    I’m losing weight right now because it is my decision. I am almost 24 years old, I have lived healthily and happily, and plenty of men have still loved me. I have gotten good jobs and recognition due to my skill – not “despite” my weight. The change feels right for me at this moment. I don’t think I could have handled it in a safe way before now.

    How does she dress? Does she hide herself under her clothes? I did that. When I started dressing well and taking better care of my appearance, it improved my self-esteem so much! It made others see ME. Make sure she is wearing clothes that fit her well. She shouldn’t be ashamed of her size. If she is eating healthily like you said, and living an active lifestyle (marching band, right?), then there doesn’t seem to be any problems. That’s what she’s supposed to be doing. She should be fine. One day, when it’s her decision, she might try to lose weight.

    I think the gift of self-love is more important than finding ways to make her a size 6. If she gives in and starts trying to lose weight, it won’t be for herself. And after 50 pounds are gone, guess what, she will still have low self-esteem. After that, everytime the scale goes up, she will hate herself more and more. Teach her to love herself now. For who she is. At her size. In her skin. If she loses weight, tell her she’s beautiful. If she gains weight, tell her she’s beautiful. She’ll get there when she’s ready.

    • Corinne July 30, 2010, 12:29 pm

      I agree with you:-)

  • Alex July 23, 2010, 11:35 am

    I was pretty overweight in high school – 175 lbs at 5’4″. When I was in my senior year, one night I was lying awake in bed, and I just kept thinking how unhappy I was and that I didn’t want to be “fat” anymore.

    The next day, I made a decision to change. I lost more than 50 lbs through healthy eating and running. Throughout my weight loss, my mom was incredibly supportive and bought the snacks that I wanted and let me prepare the meals that I wanted. When I was almost to my goal weight, I realized how grateful I was that she had been supportive, but not overbearing. She never once tried to get me to lose weight, and when I started losing weight, she encouraged me but didn’t push me.

    I very strongly believe that deciding to lose weight/be healthy is a personal decision, and something that is caused by a different motivation or realization in all of us. You have to have that moment for yourself – whatever it is that makes you realize that you want to be healthier, that you don’t want to be heavy, that you want to be able to run 5ks, or marathons, or whathaveyou. Until you have that moment, I don’t think there is much that another person can do, except be there, set an example, and be ready to provide encouragement when it happens.

  • Melissa July 23, 2010, 11:36 am

    God, do I empathize with this girl. I was 198 lbs (5’6″) in middle school, and I was still about 165 lbs by the time high school rolled around. I was also a straight-A student, but I felt like crap all the time. I pretty much hated myself, and I hated life.

    I think weight loss and self-esteem go hand-in-hand, and it needs a two-pronged approach. Consistent exercise will help mood and health simultaneously, so that should be number one priority. I also think a cognitive/behavioral therapist should be involved with, or at least available to, every teenager. Hormones and social adjustment and figuring out what to do with your life… the teenage years are rough. If the mental and physical are attacked together, there’s a real chance of progress.

  • Alyssa July 23, 2010, 11:39 am

    I definitely had self-esteem issues in high school ,but the opposite weight issues.

    I still struggle with self esteem, but what I find helps is finding something you are good at and DO IT. Get involved and passionate about something, whether it be a hobby, class, activity, school group, losing weight/living healthfully (not in an obsessive way of course, just living a healthy lifestyle), etc. I find that my self esteem and mood rises when I’m busy working on projects and feeling like I’m doing something worthwhile. I know it’s different for everyone, but this is what helps me most of the time.

    I think exercising together is a great way to help. I think what “mom” is doing is right by not badgering her about losing weight. But it is important to address the issue in some way, exercising together is one of them and so is building up her self esteem. There’s only so much one can do though, it’s up to her daughter to want to make the change, mom is there to assure her that she will support her every step of the way.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 23, 2010, 11:45 am

    I went through the same situation of being overweight in my teens, and it was my mum that helped me to do something about it. All of my life, I’ve had this strange tendency to make friends with girls that are WAY smaller than me. I never really noticed this until I started looking at photos of myself as I was gaining more and more weight, realizing that I really did look bigger than all of them.

    One day I remember trying on clothes in my room, and so many of them were too small. My mum must have noticed, because she suggested that we go to a group (very similar to Weight Watchers, but not under a brand name), just to get some ideas. She didn’t force me to go, but I did, just because I knew I was becoming self conscious as I looked at more and more photos.

    It turned out that I loved it. I was the youngest attendee at these meetings, but I sort of ended up being one of the ‘biggest losers’! (I attribute this to my seemingly speedy metabolism!) Once I learned more about healthy eating, and realized that I could eat TONS, but only if it was the right type of food, I became so much more interested in food, cooking, and a healthy lifestyle.

    For the anonymous mum, I would recommend encouraging her daughter to engage in some sort of physical activity that she enjoys. This was a huge part of my weight loss success (which was about 60lbs). Also, compliment her when she makes progress – not just in weight loss. Anything. My mum was my number 1 cheerleader when I was losing weight, and she made a point of congratulating me every step of the way. But she also recognized other things I was doing well, like making great dinners, and getting good grades at school. By complimenting me on non-weight loss related things, I knew she wasn’t exclusively focused on my weight.

    I hope this helps!

  • Laura July 23, 2010, 11:46 am

    I’m a school counselor as well and completely agree with the other guidance counselor who commented. The mother may want to check with the counselor at her daughter’s school and see if they offer any small groups that might be a good fit. It could also be helpful to look beyond the weight at the family in general– have there been big changes, is there any conflict that could cause stress, etc. Kids and teenagers are far more in-tune with what’s going on than they are often given credit for and if there is something going on in the family it could certainly be a contributor. Does the daughter have responsibilities or leadership roles at home? Perhaps she could be in charge of cooking for the family one night a week, doing certain chores, planning a weekly family activity, etc. I second Meghan’s suggestion to include both daughters in whatever “active” activities so she doesn’t feel singled out. It’s also a great opportunity to bond as a family and prevent the other daughter from feeling left out due to the additional attention her sister is getting.

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine July 23, 2010, 11:47 am

    I was a chubby pre-teen, and I can remember how much it destroyed my self-esteem. I think her mom is doing the right thing by leading by example, instead of making snide comments. HOWVER, sometimes a parent’s words aren’t enough. Perhaps she could take her daughter to the doctor, and have them give her a straight, no-bull talk on how bad being obese is for her body in the long term. I think because so many people in this country are heavy, it’s easy to overlook the long-term consequences, but no one can refute the facts when they’re given to them by a medical professional. If the doctor can explain to her WHY it’s important, then help her come up with a plan of action that the whole family can participate in, it might just make things click for her!

  • Rachel July 23, 2010, 11:49 am

    Positive reinforcement is always a good idea, but maybe this girl needs to hear the facts too. Has she seen a nutritionist or a dietician? Maybe she should hear about the effects that the the excess weight is having on her body and how certain foods, albeit seem so “healthful,” are just the product of good marketing. She should read In Defense Of Food!

    Reading this blog and others have given me a new outlook on food, proper nutrition, and healthy living. Y’all are changing lives!

  • Maissa July 23, 2010, 11:53 am

    I think a big part of what contributed to my success was the slow buildup of self confidence as I healthily lost weight. Although I was 21 when I started my journey (no longer a teenager, or living at home), I believe the principle still applies.

    The truth is you always need to muscle your way through the first few weeks. Fake it until you make it. Reward yourself for going to the gym or taking a walk with a bubble-bath, or take an hour to read a semi-trashy novel, throw five dollars into a jar towards a new item of clothing etc. I believe that here is the mother’s opportunity to help her daughter out. Really support her and encourage her to make this change. As she continues to take positive steps her self-confidence will improve as she sees progress and realizes what she can accomplish.

    I believe, though I am not a mother, that the parent’s role is to inspire her daughter to begin and create ways of making it a family thing. Cook with her daughter or go shopping for new workout clothes. Go shopping for new clothing once she loses enough weight that the old stuff doesn’t fit. It’s completely shallow, but there is so much satisfaction in being able to buy clothing at a normal store. Being able to pull anything off the rack and knowing that there is a size, in that store, that will fit.

    I think the key is not to make it about the weight, but to make it about showing her daughter that she is capable of accomplishing anything she sets her mind to. If she can realize that she will not only become a healthier person, she will carry that strength through the rest of her life whenever she is faced with a challenge.

  • Erin July 23, 2010, 11:55 am

    I was overweight as a young teenager (especially ages 12-14) and my parents took vastly different approaches. My mom never mentioned it but encouraged healthy eating, going on family walks, etc. My dad teased me. Let’s just say that it was definitely my mom’s approach that worked! The entire family needs to be involved in getting and staying healthy. If it’s a serious health issue, a doctor definitely needs to step in.

  • Megan (Running Foodie) July 23, 2010, 11:58 am

    Lots of good advice here! When I was a teenager, my family did several “fun runs” a year (5Ks, etc) that we prepared for together. Sometimes we walked, and as we got more in shape, we ran. It was something fun that we could participate in together, and the events were usually for a good cause, so we felt good about OURSELVES and about doing something good for other people.

  • Sarah July 23, 2010, 11:59 am

    Everything this Mom is doing for her daughter sounds right, and I agree with comments about exercising and especially looking into potentially getting her professional help. It’s possibly a chicken and egg situation: did she become so self conscious and have such low self esteem because of her weight or did she gain weight because she has such low self esteem in the first place? That’s something that she can eventually get to the bottom of– and solve.

    However, from experience with my mom and my own struggles with anorexia, it is important that this Mom maintain a positive image about HERSELF, too. When I was little and up until I went to treatment for my eating disorder (and even sometimes now) my Mom would talk about how she was “so fat” (she wasn’t at all). And in high school when we were the same size, I took that to mean that I should think I was fat, too. So while it’s important that the daughter know her mother (and family) accepts her and thinks she’s beautiful, it is also important the mother is setting a good example for her daughter but not promoting negative self talk or “fat talk” within her own household. I think when you’re a teenager, even the most subtle things can either hurt or mend the relationship you have with yourself.

  • Alina July 23, 2010, 12:01 pm

    Wow, I can imagine what tough situation that family must be in! I’m turning 15, and am in highschool, and know from other people, including one of my friends that is overweight, that being different is hard.

    I have high self esteem, but I didn’t used to, especially in middle school. One great way is to surroud myself with great friends, which isn’t always easy, but that was one way.

    Another was to start taking different afterschool things I was to nervous about not being good at to not do. I’m now a member of my school division’s choir, and take a karate class as well as a Polish dance class, which is great exersize as well as karate.

    I’d suggest the mom and daughter pack her lunches together and include a lot of fresh fruit and do things together like go for walks or jogs. I’d also suggest she check out the leadership program at the Y, which a lot of my friends have taken and loved!

  • Jasmine @ Eat Move Write July 23, 2010, 12:02 pm

    Such a tough issues. I was very very overweight as a child. My parents really pressured me and all it did was push me the other direction. I ended up being about 230 pounds overweight (I weighed nearly 350 at 5 foot 1 inch).

    My mom was a size zero, but her negative self talk spoke alot louder than words.

    The best thing to do is to be a good example. That means eating well and being careful to portray a healthy self esteem in herself. Kids might not follow things like that right away, but it makes a huge difference. As they grow older, these things we thought they weren’t listening to start to come out.

  • Laura July 23, 2010, 12:03 pm

    This post brings me back — When I was 14 my own mother started me on Weight Watchers (even though I never weighed more than 120lbs as a teen). For my mother it was a way to bond with me, as she was on the program herself…but for me it started an 8 year cycle of binging and restricting.

    The mother in this post is obviously concerned for her daughter’s health. Still I would urge her to STOP: Stop focusing on her daughter’s weight, even if it is one reason for her low self-esteem. Stop treating her differently than her 19 year old daughter. Stop making everything about her daughter’s outward appearance. The truth is, food and weight is never about Food and Weight — it’s about everything else going on. I would urge the mother to back off from the weight issue and instead, treat her daughter with respect and love regardless of her size. Once her daughter feels valued for who she is INSIDE, food will become less of an issue for her.

    Once I realized that I could eat anything I wanted (without my mother policing what I put in my mouth) food didn’t have the same pull anymore. I wasn’t as tempted to binge or restrict because food became, well, just food. It didn’t equal love or approval or shame or guilt. It just sustained me physically, not emotionally.

    I still have to remind my mom that I live in a diet free zone. Recently we had a girls weekend in Chicago. We were eating lunch at Subway and she started talking about the points values of certain foods (only to me, not my naturally smaller sisters). I said, “Mom, it’s fine for you to use points to keep yourself on track, but I don’t live that way.” I would hate for the mother in this post to hurt her relationship with her daughter over food and weight.

    I would recommend Geneen Roth’s new book, “Women, Food and God”: It talks a lot about intuitive eating vs. emotional eating…and loving ourselves first and foremost.

    • Shannon July 23, 2010, 4:14 pm


  • Kristen July 23, 2010, 12:04 pm

    15 is a tricky age. I think it all depends on the dynamic between mother and daughter. If there is already open communication and the “weight issue” is on the table – as in not a taboo subject that is “out there” but never actually discussed – I think there should be one conversation.

    Assuming there is nothing askew health wise, thyroid etc… the mother should say to the daughter “this is your life and your body, I love you for who you are and what you will become, no matter what. My love is unavoidable and unconditional. If you are unhappy what any part of your life it is your responsibility to own your life and make it what you want. If there are changes you want to make, please let me know how I can help. But this is your life.”

    My comment comes from a situation with my brother. In high school he went through a bad grade, apathetic phase. No matter what my dad did, nagging, grounding, talking… it didn’t change anything. Not until he basically said the above – this is your life, you have to own it, your decisions affect the future did he get his act together… for him.

  • Amy Ramos July 23, 2010, 12:11 pm

    I am sure you have gotten plenty of great advice and comments but I have to say, I was that overweight teenager.
    I agree the mom should encourage her daughter be active. Walks is a great idea or maybe joining the local Y together and attend classes together.
    Maybe the mom and daughter can meet with a registered dietician together to go over a plan. Sometimes even though parents “think” they know what their kids already know, sometimes they are clueless on where to start.

    I understand she does not want to force her daughter into anything but maybe the daughter does not know where to start.
    I was always comparing myself to the skinny cheerleaders and I thought that if I signed up to be a cheerleader, I could be skinny too. That was a fail.
    I hope the anonymous mom finds some great advice and that her daughter gets the tool she needs.
    and one more thing-I hope the mom does not try to be her friend during this. The mom needs to be a parent for this as her daughter’s health is at risk. I am not trying to tell the mom how to be a parent but during these teenage years, they need guidance not a buddy!

  • Maura July 23, 2010, 12:11 pm

    I think all teenagers struggle with self esteem issues. Heck, I think everyone struggles with self esteem issues..I know I still do sometimes, and I’m 23.

    I would recommend (like everyone else) that she find some physical activity that she loves (ie. horseback riding, roller blading, walking) and get into that. Also, I hesitate to throw this out there but maybe she needs to talk to someone…as in a health professional. My brother went through a very hard time in his life (ie. his best friend died in a car accident, girl friend dumped him, bullies at school) and he didn’t want to open up to me, my mom, or my dad. When we finally asked him to go to therapy (for fear things were really going to turn ugly) he went (after much convincing) and it really helped! Sometimes all we need is for someone to listen.

  • christine July 23, 2010, 12:12 pm

    I think in high school when I was overweight, I would have liked to have been more informed. I thought trying to eat 1/2 a granola bar and a smaller glass of oj for breakfast was what was going to help me lose weight. I didn’t know anything about healthy eating or exercising. I also think watching inspiring shows can help like ‘Losing it with Jillian’.

  • Bethany (Not Unless I'm Being Chased) July 23, 2010, 12:19 pm

    I think the issue at heart is really the low self-esteem. When you have low self-esteem, it seems useless to “invest” (eat healthy, exercise, think positive) in something you don’t believe in…yourself.
    Like so many have mentioned before, Anonymous Mom’s acceptance of her daughter and encouragement in areas other than weight loss will likely lead to a boost in self-esteem, I believe. Maybe then daughter will start to make some changes.
    Ultimately, the daughter is the one who has to make the choice to lose weight. If Mom is offering all the options and nothing is happening, it isn’t because Mom isn’t trying. It’s because daughter isn’t making the investment in herself.
    I think most people will say THEY were the ones who one day decided to change — not that they changed after weeks/months/years of OTHER people trying to change them or help them change.
    It’s a toughie though. My heart goes out to both the mom and the daughter on this one.

  • megan July 23, 2010, 12:22 pm

    I want to suggest tennis. Maybe mom and daughter playing together, or get the rest of the family involved. I picked up a tennis racket for the first time when i was 15 and got hooked. I’d go with my dad a few evenings a week to the local park and just try to hit the ball. I suggest tennis mainly because if you don’t already play, pretty much everyone starts from the same terrible position. tons of running to chase the ball, lots of laughing because the ball goes everywhere, etc. no one is good at tennis when they start, so you don’t feel bad about yourself. if they start together, just having fun and trying to hit the ball back and forth, that could be really good. kind of a random suggestion, but thought I’d throw it out there because hardly anyone thinks about tennis, but it’s awesome 🙂

  • Jessica July 23, 2010, 12:23 pm

    Like some of the others have said, she definitely needs a hobby (exercise or not) to enjoy. I think this is one of the best ways to improve your self esteem. This is a good idea for people of all ages. At a difficult time in my life, I started painting and it was wonderful therapy. When you realize what you excel at and what makes you feel great, it can really improve your self confidence.

    Straight A’s! Obviously, she is very smart and should be very proud of this accomplishment.

    It’s tough being young. I was definitely never a “normal” kid/teen. I actually was a little chubby when I was 8 or 9. I can remember my parents being kind of strict about me losing the weight. I was required to get on the treadmill for an 1 hour every day after school before I did anything else. And they monitored what I ate. The weight came off very quickly (I probably lost 10-15 lbs). Even though they were strict, they were supportive. I am not sure if this is was the best way to encourage weight loss for a child, but it worked and I do not have any bad feelings about how my parents raised me at all.

  • LC @ Let Them Eat Lentils July 23, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Can you afford to send her to summer camp? Maybe a band camp since it seems like that’s the focus on her interests/social group right now? As a teenager, getting outside of your immediate friend circle and feeling accepted by a whole new group of people who don’t go to your high school can really help with self esteem.

    Another option is to get involved in youth group activities, which are more weekend trips/community service oriented. Community service makes you feel good and helps you think outside of yourself. It’s great if you and she can do these kinds of things together, of course, but what you really want to help her build is solid relationships with her peers – people who accept her as she is.

    I’m not even touching on the whole overweight thing, because, assuming you are being careful about doctors visits, etc. I don’t think that’s really the issue. Accept her as she is, today. You want what’s best for her, and I understand that this is coming from love, but I don’t think it’s going to come across that way. Not to mention her sister doesn’t have a weight problem so that’s going to make her feel even worse about herself. Find something she can shine at and encourage her to shine. Forget her body size.

  • Katherine July 23, 2010, 12:29 pm

    Ick high school is awful. I was probably only 10 lbs overweight all through high school and my parents telling me to be healtier never helped. What did help was participating in team sports. Also, when I was a sophmore my family joined a gym. My mother (who at the time was also overweight) and I started to go together. My dad and I would occasionally go on bike rides together as well which was a nice family activity. Don’t underestimate walking the dog. My mom lost 40 lbs and walking our family dog played a major role in that achomplishment.

    Something that had always made me feel better about myself is getting little notes, similar to Operation Beautiful. I still get them in the mail from time to time from my mother. I had a hard year this year and everytime I got one it reminded me how special and great I am, no matter what my grades were or what was going on in my life. Empowering her by boosting her self esteem is totally the way to go.

  • Missa July 23, 2010, 12:29 pm

    I was always heavy too, but I lost a ton of weight when my mom gave me a gym membership to a gym she didn’t go to.. It was my escape. I could go, do a class I wanted, play around, go to the pool… whatever. I loved it. Sometimes, giving the push to be empowered and leaving it up to the teen works…

  • Holly @ July 23, 2010, 12:31 pm

    I mending her self esteem is most important. I don’t think that losing weight naturally gives people better self esteem. It helps, don’t get me wrong, but it is not the solution.

    The daughter does have to decide for herself if she wants to lose weight, but I think it is not wise to think that “she knows what to do” — there is so much information out there about different diets and ways of eating, combine that with extreme results on Biggest Loser and you have alot of confused people out there.

    Mom can make sure she has healthy food in the house, and Mom could even start taking a walk every night and after a week or so, invite the daughter to join. That way it won’t seem like Mom is walking ONLY because of the daughter.

    I gained self esteem through exercise — I felt strong and I felt good about myself, so I agree with comments about getting the daughter more involved in physical activities.

    This is hard for me to read because my Mom is obese and my sisters and I recently talked with her about getting healthy. We did our absolute best to not even talk about weight, we talked about health, the importance of exercise, and the fact that we are there to support her, not judge her every move.

    My Mom has recently stopped drinking pop and drinks water throughout the day. It is a small step, but a good one, in the right direction.

  • Susan - Nurse on the Run July 23, 2010, 12:36 pm

    My sister was (and still is) overweight in high school, and it was always a tough situation for my parents. Despite being twins, my sister and I look NOTHING alike, and while I’ve always been thin, my sister has not. My sister would never say much about it until it came time to shop for dresses for dances or something of the sort, and I was fitting into size 2’s while she could barely squeeze into size 16’s. My mom tried multiple ways to try and help…we were obviously raised the same way and ate the same foods, but once we had more freedom, she would eat more junk food than I did. I also was a runner through high school while she gravitated towards things like horseback riding. Anytime my mom would try to reach out to my sister, she would get very upset and defensive…no one likes being told that they’re overweight! In college, my sister finally joined Weight Watchers and joined a gym with my mom and lost about 50 pounds…but has since gained it all back, and more.

    You can’t MAKE someone change…they have to want to do it. They may hate being overweight and having low self-esteem, but unless they want to change for themselves and actually commit to it, there is very little that others can do for them. My family has always been concerned about my sister’s health due to being overweight, and my sister is a nurse so she knows all the problems with being overweight, but for now she doesn’t want to change on her own.

    If anything, I would suggest that the mom help her daughter to find activities that she likes to, or perhaps help her to cook in the kitchen so she can make healthy foods that she likes to eat! Changing things into positive activities can be helpful versus limiting foods or requiring exercise.

  • Karen @ Not Just Celery July 23, 2010, 12:37 pm

    That does sound like a tough situation. I grew up overweight and yo-yo dieted through high school & college – gaining and losing 30-40 lbs and then some. It wasn’t until I turned 24 that I decided to do something about it for good and have kept off 90 lbs for a year and am trying to lose the last 20.

    Anyways, I have to say, the more my parents pushed me to lose weight, the more I rebelled. I liked to eat in secret, hiding in my room and eating bags of chips or chocolate at a time. Obviously not good/healthy behavior.

    I think your advice to encourage exercise or healthy activities the family can participate together is a good idea though. Exercise and being more active has truly changed my life.

  • Tina July 23, 2010, 12:37 pm

    I honestly think you can’t force people into healthier behaviors. The BEST thing this mom can do is continue to live a life as a healthy example, offer the healthier foods, etc and MOST importantly continue to encourage her. Not to lose weight, but just in general about her life. Make her feel beautiful and loved and have the rest of the family do the same. Connect with her and care for her so she knows she is valued and can grow to value herself more. When you value yourself that is when you start wanting to take better care of yourself and when the healthier changes can happen.

  • Anne July 23, 2010, 12:41 pm

    Summertime is a great time to start exercising. When I was 15, and still in that baby fat + love to eat terrible foods phase, my mom and I exercised regularly together. It was usually just a 45 minute walk a couple of times a week. But it was enough to see results and soon I was hooked. I didn’t need to loose weight, really, but now I look back and am thankful my parents got me on track for healthy food and exercise habits.

  • Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) July 23, 2010, 12:46 pm

    I wish she could have come to Camp Endeavor this year! For once the kids are on an even playing field with their peers, they learn how good it feels to move and they are able to just have fun! Building a month of good habits makes it easier to return home and continue them.
    I would agree with others about the movement, find things that you can do as a family and that are fun and not necessarily “exercise”. I do know that kids appreciate parents who support them but who also don’t “nag” them to eat healthy, exercise, etc.

  • Morgan July 23, 2010, 12:49 pm

    Wow, it’s amazing to see how many of us were in a similar situation in high school. Honestly Caitlin, I think you’re one of the most qualified to serve as an example of someone who turned their unhealthy habits around. For one, the mom could show her operation beautiful and from there she can browse the blog world and not feel so alone. I think being overweight in high school is so isolating and when you’re in that position, you think no one can understand you. Maybe if she sees it’s not impossible and that people DO understand, she can help herself.

  • Amber K @ sparkpeople July 23, 2010, 12:53 pm

    Finding something that she enjoys and that better yet, they can do together sounds great. Anything would be better than my dad hugging me, pinching my side and saying “I thought you were going to the gym.”

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers July 23, 2010, 12:55 pm

    Honestly, with kids & teenagers, self-esteem and weight are so wrapped up in each other, it’s almost impossible to separate them. I’d suggest somewhere where she can work with someone one on one, that way they can be sensitive to both issues at the same time- a dietitian, doctor, etc. The mom may have no idea what the girl is eating when mom isn’t watching- teenagers rarely eat only at home. One on one counseling will not only teach her what she needs to know (which teenagers hear better from people besides Mom!), but also let her open up about things mom might not be aware of.

  • Emily @ For Sweets Sake July 23, 2010, 12:58 pm

    High school really is rough no matter what :-/ I struggled with weight in middle school. My mom took me to weight watchers and I lost about 30lbs there. My biggest help though was just getting involved in sports and having an active family. I would also bike with my family, go swimming at a lake, having a family that is active and encourages the activities I did by just driving me to practices and places to play was a big help too! Weight loss can be a lifelong battle though. She’s definitely not alone. It’s something I struggle with every day. I wish there was a secret to it all, but it can be a lot of hard work.

  • Linda July 23, 2010, 1:02 pm

    Hmmm…I probably have WAY too much to say on this subject. I have a daughter who has struggled her WHOLE life with weight issues. I completely and utterly understand the devastation and sadness that comes from watching a child’s self-esteem deteriorate before your eyes. My very first piece of advice (given the information) is to get to the bottom of why there is a weight issue. My daughter was overweight when she was a toddler (she only drank isomil as she had severe allergies and wouldn’t eat anything). Long story short I am working with and have just started my daughter on an agressive natural program of vitamins and supplements to combat a severe hormonal imabalnace as well as adrenal fatigue. I believe that when people are really overweight and they aren’t chugging down burgers, fries, chocolate and icecream by the hour, there is a reason. Conventional doctors DO NOT get to the bottom of these issues, but I think you may find some solace in this group of women. Dr. Northrup (esteemed physician, founded the wellness center) is an amazing person. We have found out that my daughter is highly allergic to so many foods (wheat, oats, nuts) etc. We have begun an elimination diet, where we are eating only plant foods, (as well as dairy-free because she is sensitive to that). She is now dropping about 2 pounds every week. She feels fantastic, she has more energy, she is happier. For her, it is SO easy because she is eating foods she loves. Getting rid of some of the foods that she was allergic too was difficult (a little) because unfortunately the body often craves what it is allergic too. Anyway, that is my two cents worth. Keep looking for the reasons…..too often we listen to the wrong information. Good luck – and hugs. I truly truly understand how difficult this can be for a family.

  • Sarah July 23, 2010, 1:02 pm

    I would just like to offer some tips to Anon Mom and Daughter.

    I have struggled with weight my entire life. Although I am currently on the heavier side, the knowledge I have gained through trying to lose weight “the right way” – healthy, whole foods & exercise rather than “diet foods” and starving yourself – this knowledge has made me a healthier eater, even if sometimes I eat too much or don’t exercise enough! Even though I carry extra weight on my frame, I believe my diet is significantly healthier than many of my peers.

    When I was 14, that was the first time my mom mentioned to me that we could take steps together to be a healthier family. I cried, and I was ashamed, but I knew that I had gotten teased for being “the fat kid” all my life, and it was time to make a change. We went to a dietitian together (this may or may not be covered by healthy insurance, I’m not sure what the case was for us) and she suggested either a comprehensive weight loss program with classes and such, or just that I start tracking my food and exercise. I went with the simpler plan, and my mom and I began to meet with her weekly for discussions about food and also weighing in. I was very honest about what I ate, so I learned what portion sizes should be, and sometimes that I was eating TOO LITTLE! It was very helpful overall, and since it was a private meeting with her and my mom, I think I responded to it better than I would have with a public meeting such as Weight Watchers. Since then I’ve regained some weight (college & grad school!) but I think having a foundation in LEARNED healthy eating habits is something I can go back to at any point.

    Good luck, and I wish you the best!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 23, 2010, 1:31 pm

    It sounds like she’s been taking the right approach so far! It’s really nice to hear that she tries not to be preachy. I was a little chubby back in high school, and my parents were always saying things like “Do you really need that second cookie?” or “You should really try to lose 10 lbs” all the time and it just cut down my self esteem even more. I actually didn’t get the motivation to start working out and eating healthily until university, when I was away from my parents. Maybe because by then I’d gained some self esteem? Or maybe because I was embarrassed to make such big life changes in front of my parents? I’m not quite sure why.

  • Krista July 23, 2010, 1:31 pm

    I was very overweight in high school, even though I was active in dance team & everything. The only thing I can say is, the mother should never make a comment about the daughter’s weight or dieting. The daughter knows she is overweight. When she’s ready to change it she will. This is what happened to me. A few years into college, I was ready to start feeling good about myself. I wanted to get asked on dates, I wanted to feel pretty. I was tired of feeling insecure about my body. One day it just clicked, I decided to change it and I did. I’ve now kept the weight off for about 8 years. The best thing is I know my parents loved me when I was overweight becasue they never made any comments about it.

  • Suzanne July 23, 2010, 1:31 pm

    I think she needs to learn to get in touch with her body, learn what makes her feel good physically. There are a couple of books that I read that really hit home for me and caused me to overhaul my viewpoint of food and my body. They really discussed the media’s affect on body image (for example, she may compare herself to others, thinking she’ll never be that “perfect,” so why try). The books focus on eating whatever you want when you’re hungry, no guilt. Guilt is often a driving force in closet eating, if that’s what she’s doing. It’s rarely as simple as just going on a diet and exercising, there’s usually a lot of emotion behind it and those have to be dealt with before a lasting change can be made.

  • Rebecca July 23, 2010, 1:34 pm

    I think we need to be careful about assumptions. Too often we think that “If she’s doing XYZ, then she’ll be a “normal” weight.” This is NOT always the case.

    Unfortunately, most studies show that exercise is NOT a huge component in weight loss. Diet is much more influential, and I can attest to the fact that diet ALONE is usually enough to affect weight loss. So I’m just not convinced that–if this girl really is eating healthfully with some occasional treats–this is a simple problem. Yes, I was somewhat active in high school, but there’s no way an average teen girl should need an exercise REGIMEN to be a “healthy” weight. I would really avoid suggesting this.

    Instead, let’s look at some other things. I would get her hormones tested, as it seems there could be a legitimate health issue here. Someone above mentioned thyroid. Also, think about things like PCOS. Either way, a workup would be the way to go.

    Also, let’s be really careful when we assume that EVERYONE is going to fall in the “right” weight range. Everyone is different, and people can be HEALTHY AND “OVERWEIGHT” at the same time!

    The key thing will be NOT TO MAKE IT AN ISSUE. She should feel good in her own skin no matter what. That starts when those she loves feel good about her own skin no matter what and show that to her.

  • Baylee July 23, 2010, 1:38 pm

    ahh the good ol’ teenage years. thank God those are over…im 20 now 🙂 it truly is crazy how much a person changes from age 18 to age 20.

    when I was in middle school, I was overweight. not obese, but a little chunky – i didnt get made fun of for it, but my self esteem was awful and i had no friends..but in my angstful-ness, i just blew it off and declared that i didnt care what people thought of me, so i wasnt going to lose weight. (although its funny because i allowed negative comments to influence me to eat MORE)

    one thing that i do ask, anon mom – is that, in whatever happens with this situation – make sure it is all focused on getting healthier for herself, her family, and her future – and that it never become solely based on weight loss (because, naturally, that will come with getting healthier)ohh..never say the word diet either. healthy eating plan sounds mucho better.

    one suggestion that i have is to really start trying to show a personal interest in health, exercise and wellness. research some health facts, get a few health/exercise/shape magazines (and keep them in eyes view of her). if shes like most teenage girls, you will eventually find one of them missing because she’ll have it in her bedroom reading it. i dont know if you have a gym membership (does your daughter?) alot of gyms offer fun and exciting classes..encourage her to go with you. although i know the last thing teens want to be seen doing is dancing with their mothers..but maybe try to get your 19 year old to go too? rollerblading? bike riding?

    if none of this works, hopefully the realization about her weight will all come in time, in her own mind..but just make sure she does it healthfully..and openly, not sneakishly.

    my brother was overweight/obese from the time he was 3 to 12 years old. and i have no idea how. he played EVERY, basketball, hockey, soccer, bowling..he was always outside doing something and ate relatively healthy. but no matter what he did, he was always chunky and got made fun of. it broke my heart (and im sure it breaks your oldest daughters heart). we tried so many different things..but with as much as he was physically impossible for him to still be overweight. hell, i was the one that overate and sat on my butt all day and i was still normal/slightly overweight. when he turned 12, somehow he started thinning out..and now, he’s 5’8, 160 lbs..and all muscle. so maybe your daughter will find her time, soon enough

  • Christine July 23, 2010, 1:40 pm

    I was overweight in high school as well. Unless you have been in her shoes its hard to understand the situation. I also have a very supportive Mom who has never had a weight issue. She supported me endlessly with whatever new eating plan I wanted to try. I will always be grateful for that.

    It is best that the Mom not say anything. As pp’s said, the girl knows she is overweight, she does not need to be reminded. She needs to be ready to make the change, when she is she will do it. I think the Mom continuing to set an example for her and preparing healthy foods is the most help she can give. The only suggestion I might make is offering to let the girl join a gym and/or work with a trainer, this might inspire her. Only bring this up after the girl brings up her weight first.

    I had a hard time being an overweight teen in the 90’s. I cannot imagine how difficult it is now.

  • Michele July 23, 2010, 1:48 pm

    The best thing my mother did for me was enroll me in a swim team. Getting exercise regularly can improve self esteem, and then maybe have a conversation about eating healthier. Also, take her to a doctor, who might talk some sense into her.

  • Kacy July 23, 2010, 2:01 pm

    This is really corny and oversimplified, but I think it’s sometimes hard for us to see just how much our comments affects our loved ones. I think working on the daughter’s self esteem is the first step, and could easily be done by the mother reaffirming to her daughter everyday that she is beautiful and worth it and unique (hello, Operation Beautiful!). Also, positive feedback is great. If she goes on a walk with her daughter and is doing a great job, say so. Don’t keep quiet about any success, no matter how small.

  • Therese July 23, 2010, 2:09 pm

    Oye. I’ve been overweight since I was in single digits. By the time I was 13 years old I was 180lbs. That was the year Mom took me to a dietician…

    When you’re an overweight kid/teenager it’s REALLY difficult. My self-esteem was shot and nothing my parents could say did anything about it, I was locked in my OWN thoughts and experienced a LOT of cognitive distortion (thinking things were true, i.e., I am worthless, without having it based on fact). Getting to the heart of her self esteem issues is KEY, it’s not her weight that’s getting her down, it’s something else, weight is a symptom. You don’t wake up having gained weight, it builds, gradually. Finding out why she turned to food in the first place and then dealing with it and then creating small goals to start building up her self-esteem is, in my opinion, the way to go. It took me 27 years to figure this out, I had to figure out how I got to be the way I was and then deal with the issues. It’s a long road but it DOES work.

    As a parent, perhaps try to listen to what’s behind her self-esteem issues. If she’s not willing to discuss it, all you can really do is be candid, be supportive in all her healthy endeavours and try to find, and do, the things that she enjoys and that make her feel good. If she starts using words like “should” and “must” a lot, you’ve got a problem with cognitive distortion.

    This is really long! Sorry! But I’ve been there and PLEASE feel free to pass along my email to this reader if she needs any help!

  • Sabrina July 23, 2010, 2:20 pm

    I always rode horses (still do) while growing up and in that sport she isn’t going to feel self conscious because she should be able to run or anything like that, it is very low impact, but a work out as well. She would feel like it was hard because it is foreign, and she will see other people half her size that are having the same problems as she is when riding. You would have to be careful picking the place to go though. If it is a competitive barn and not just a fun barn then you would probably exacerbate the problem.

  • katie hery July 23, 2010, 2:35 pm

    i was a bit overweight in high school too. 135 at 5’3 and i hated it. i asked my mom one day do you think im fat and she hesitated… and said well it wouldnt be bad if you got more healthy and honestly thats all it took it clicked! i started weight watchers and lost a ton of weight. my lowest was 110. then i balanced out at 120 which is perfect for my body frame. all i needed was that extra push and my mom and i went on numerous walks, she ate healthy with me, we went grocery shopping together to pick out healthy food. cooked healthy meals together. i didnt have low self esteem but when i lost the weight i felt even better.

  • Katy T July 23, 2010, 2:39 pm

    Saw this article on CNN today and thought it might be helpful: Expert Q&A: Should I put my 11-year-old on a diet?

  • jen trinque @ recipes for creativity July 23, 2010, 2:53 pm

    1. If the mom is taking the time to write to you she clearly cares very much about her daughter, but she also seems to wory about her daughter’s weight ALOT. Maybe too much? Maybe she thinks she’s being helpful, but the daughter finds it pushy and thinks her mom thinks something’s wrong with her?

    2. The low self-esteem probably started before being overweight; she made need to join a group or do something new, or even seen a counselor about other underlying issues.

    3. She may be sneaking food and struggle with compulsive or binge eating. It’s such an embarrassing situation for people who suffer from disordered eating, they hide it and don’t want to talk about it. Again, maybe some sort of counseling would be helpful? Just knowing what to do (moving, eating right, etc) doesn’t make people lose weight, especially if they are eating for emotional reasons!

  • Sassy Molassy July 23, 2010, 2:57 pm

    I was overweight as a teenager before I really got into sports in hs that forced me to Run A LOT! Every parent should just remain supportive and encouraging and tell their kid how beautiful they are. My mom was such a huge supporter of mine. When I finally realized that I wanted to make a change in how much I was eating and my exercise habits, my parents were right there to support me. But they never said “hey, you should go workout.” However, maybe connecting with her daughter by going on walks like you say or doing a fun excursion like taking a picnic lunch/dinner on a hike would be a great activity.

    THe important thing to remember is that most teenagers struggle with self esteem issues at some point. Just be there to support and encourage and tell them what they are good at. ANd maybe even help encourage those strengths by sending them to a specific camp in the summer or an after school activity. Best of luck!!!

  • LindsayH July 23, 2010, 3:06 pm

    i would definitely say the weight and the self-esteem are symptoms. in order to be “in a place” to do something about the weight, they need to find the real cause. its not just about food and its not just about being overweight. when a person knows, intellectually, what it takes to lose weight (healthy mindful eating and physical activity) and still isnt in the right place emotionally, there are other issues. possibly a therapist specializing in adolescent and teenage clients would be able to help them gain some insight. they could go together until the daughter is comfortable enough to go on her own.

  • Diana July 23, 2010, 3:17 pm

    Man alive do I know what that is like! I was a chubby teenager and struggled with it much like it sounds this girl does. There are two moments that absolutely KILLED me. First my Dad told me that my arm looked like a thigh in my Prom photo (OUCH Dad!), then a coach of mine told an entire group of parents and students that I struggled with how slow I was! It was not a pleasant experience. I can also relate because I was a HUGE band nerd in high school!

    The advice that I would give is, absolutely do NOT criticize her weight. It sounds like a lot of really great avenues (the pre-diabetic class, weight watchers) have already been followed, but keep pressing the healthy lifestyle. It’s not about dieting and losing the weight, it’s about getting healthy. Encourage her to find an activity that works for her! Kick boxing, yoga, Jazzercize, something fun that will make her want to go back. Having a role model too helps tremendously. I know that anytime I see Ironmen (and women) on TV, or other amazing athletes I can’t help but strap on my running shoes and take off. Great role models, non-judgemental environment, exploring many different activities, all helped in my situation at least!

  • Lindsey July 23, 2010, 3:31 pm

    I was (well, still am) overweight as a teenager, and I can tell you first hand that there was no time when I forgot I was heavy. And people reminding me of it was just a smack in the face. I think Mom needs to be as supportive as possible without being pushy. It’s just like going on a diet – you can’t really do it until you’re ready.

    I agree with the physical activity, though. If my mom would have had the time and we could have done some walking or even running together I would have been all for it. Unfortunately she had no time for that.

    Another thing – there’s nothing I dislike more than people trying to offer me “tips” when I’m not asking for them. For example, I come to this blog looking for ideas on how to be healthier. But if I’m sitting down for a meal I don’t really want someone telling me I should take half my meal home because then I won’t eat as much.

    I think it’s really hard to be supportive of someone while not being pushy, and I think it’s great that Mom wants to help.

  • Brigid July 23, 2010, 3:54 pm

    My kids are not teenagers yet but I sympathize with this mom. It is so difficult to see your child hurt and not know what to do for them, and many times it is what they can do for themselves.
    I have been watching the Jillian Michael’s show the past couple months where she moves into peoples’ houses for the week to help them confront their weight issues. It ends up these weight issues stem from other issues, whether it’s some sort of loss or feeling of disappointing others.
    I’m sure many people have suggested counseling, etc., and clearly this has to be part of the picture. I also agree with the physical activity being a big part. The physical response of our bodies when we are active makes us feel better. Perhaps this teenager can get involved in an activity that isn’t necessarily a “team sport” so there is no pressure from others on her performance. (Running, Karate, swimming, biking, etc.).
    Best of luck to this mother and her daughter.

  • Kate K July 23, 2010, 4:02 pm

    I’d agree with pp who said that any comments about weight from parents (even if they mean to be helpful) are going to get under her skin. I gained quite a bit of weight in college (like a lot people) and any suggestions or concerned comments from my parents just made me push them away and be even more stubborn about my weight and my health.

    What helped me, honestly, was taking a yoga class. My teacher always put an emphasis on working with your own body and working at your own pace and not comparing yourself to anyone else in the class. That was a revelation! Basically, I learned to work *with* my body, instead of against it and that helped me accept my body which in the end helped me want to help it by losing some weight and getting healthy.

    I’d also recommend having her take a cooking class, or at least find some new healthy recipes or cookbooks. Give her some ownership of her food–let her try new things and figure out what she likes. That way you’re not pushing healthy food on her (which is probably how she sees it).

  • Dez @ July 23, 2010, 4:02 pm

    I was that exact girl when I was in highschool. 15yrs old over 200lbs on a 5’5 frame. I was in every varsity sport my school offered, I was in JROTC and did mandatory PT every day. I was not diabetic. I went to my doctors every year and he told me I was healthy all around, great blood pressure, great cholesterol, great sugar levels…I was just overweight.

    I also had a job, so I didn’t have a minute to sit on the couch and eat chips. I did volunteer work, i had a million friends. I was busy from 4:30am to 9pm. I went to see a nutritionist, and I didn’t lose anything. I ate salads with my mom, i ate PBJ for lunch, oatmeals and bananas for breakfast.

    It’s part genetic, both sides of my family are big. Doctors couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t losing anything. It was just a mystery (actually still is). TILL, the summer before freshman year of college. With my job money, I saved up enough to go to Italy all by myself! (well, with a friend and her family). And I lost over 45lbs in 2 months! Just a change of scenery, a lifestyle change (stress free) different habits, and just get away from my surroundings. I came back and my parents didn’t even recognize me! I lived with another family and watched their eating habits, and how it was different than mine. It was amazing. It could also have been my hormones (puberty) that made me stay the same weight. ‘Baby fat’ as they say. Because as I got older, things are just slimmer.

    My advice: If at all possible, can she go to a different environment for the summer? Not neccessarily a weight loss camp, but visit an aunt or uncle? A change of scenery did wonders and I was more confident for my first year of college. Its been 10yrs since that trip.. and I’ve put weight back on due to unhealthy habits…and its VERY hard to lose this time (I blog about it). I’ve since changed my lifestyle in the last year and a half and I’m happy to report lots of great things have changed!

    Good luck, and the daughter or Mom is more than welcome to contact me!

  • Bekah @ The Veggie Mistress July 23, 2010, 4:10 pm

    I see so much of myself in this girl – with the exception of the parental involvement! I was overweight my entire life, until the age of 15 when I over-corrected and went down a very disordered-eating path. I truly believe that my parents should have and could have been more directly involved in what was obviously happening in my life, and 13 years later I still believe they should have taken action much sooner than they did. Counseling would have been HUGE for me, because my food issues were about so much more than food. I highly recommend the mom look into counseling for her daughter.

  • City Cinderella July 23, 2010, 4:16 pm

    Hi Caitlin,
    I have been reading your blog for months now and I think this is the first comment I’ve ever left but it struck a chord with me so here ya go…
    When I was in highschool I weighed 226 lbs at 5’6″. I was obese. I would walk the halls and have to shut myself off from my environment so that the hurtful remarks didn’t sting. I was living life completely numb. Don’t get me wrong, I was a funny girl. Very outgoing and loud. I believed the old “make them laugh with you, before they laugh at you” scenario would work, and it did. I was class president, top of my drama class and active in all other areas of my life. But I was sad. I was extremely self conscious and barely wanted to leave the house sometimes. And my lifelong dream of being an actress seemed rediculously impossible. After high school I was elated to be accepted into a prestigious theater school. I was in my element, getting the good roles, being the envy of other classmates and for the first time I could see my dreams becoming a reality. After the first year a teacher brought me into her office and was very straight with me and said “You are a very talented girl, but the industry is what it is. If you don’t lose weight you wont work.” And something just clicked in me. The idea of my dream being ripped away from me, the notion that it was all within my power- well that’s all it took for me to change my ways. The summer I turned 19 I signed up with a good women’s gym, where people were watching out for me. I started watching my fat intake and snacking habits. I had a goal. And by the end of the summer I was 30 pounds thinner. That was 10 years ago and since then I have lost and additional 40 pounds and kept it all off. I run regularly and participate in races for the challenge, I take yoga classes, I periodically get tune ups with personal trainers. I married a beautiful man you is passionate about local food which brought my consciousness back to my diet and the environment. All of these changes make me feel warm and fuzzy about what I am doing for my soul, my body and my world. But what most important is that I feel empowered! I took control of my dream and now I am a successful, in demand working actor.
    My advice would be, if you really want to see changes in a loved one, appeal to their passions and dreams. Encourage them to find joy in something while showing them the power they have to make their dreams come true. Distract them from the sadness they feel about their bodies. They may just be blocking you out for protection. Open up their eyes again.
    I still struggle with my weight on a daily basis, but I do the struggle with pride, gusto and knowledge.
    Be patient and loving. Nothing feeds a person better then empowerment.

  • kwithme July 23, 2010, 4:32 pm

    Obviously, this is a topic that is the close to the heart of many. While I was a healthy weight HS student (125 lbs, 5’5″), I was treated by my mother and dance teacher as if I was overweight. My mother told me this past week (20 years later) that she never thought I was overweight. She does not remember ever saying that I would look so much better for prom if I lost 10 lbs. She vaguely remembers limited my protein grams when I was 10 because I was getting chunky (its really called pre-pubescent). So I would say that this mom needs to stop any comments. To the teen, the arrows hit deep, even when they are well meant.

    I was thinking she should try yoga or karate. Another idea is any activity where the physical is hidden, like geocaching.

    Last, I agree with all the others, the only one who can choose to lose the weight is the teen. Providing the opportunities is all the mother can do. The teen does not buy her own food and probably can’t get herself to events. So, the mom’s willing assistance on that would be great.

  • Michal July 23, 2010, 4:34 pm

    I’m somewhat torn in my response. I want to tell the Mom that she’s great for being supportive. But I can also say that attention to my weight (and I got a LOT of mixed messages starting from age 4 or so!) from my family while I was growing up really contributed to my disordered eating. Ultimately it took independence – college – to both crash and then slowly heal.
    On the other hand, it would have helped me stay involved with physical activity if it had fit into my family’s lifestyle.
    So….. my advice is to be supportive without being explicit about the weight. Get the whole family involved in something FUN and active, again without being explicit about it. A dog is a great idea, but so are activities like hiking, rafting, yoga, etc…. and you could also suggest those as activities for she and her friends to do together, if she wants more independence at times.
    Also – please, please don’t make it about “weight.” If you HAVE to talk about it, make it about “health”. She’s being bombarded by media messages every day and weight is such an overblown factor with impossible ideals.

  • michelle July 23, 2010, 4:56 pm

    I was that girl. My breaking point was at 198 and I was 15. I remember getting on the scale and crying. My mom pushing me to lose weight made it worse and I spiraled into disordered eating and that led to full on ED in college. It took me 8 years to recover. What I would have liked is my mom NOT talking about it. I knew it was there.

    Mom is doing everything right, preparing healthy meals, etc… Mom should ask the daughter if there is sport she’d like to try, martial arts, teen yoga, etc… Possibly mom can have daughter start participating in the preparing of family meals. I agree that working on self esteem would be helpful.

  • Hedda July 23, 2010, 5:01 pm

    Such a challenging situation, where it probably feels like whatever one says or does risk ending up totally wrong.

    Weight is an touchy issue, and our relationship with food is often attached to so much more than just nutritional needs. It is about the love we have for ourselves, or lack of it. How we value and respect our body. And also the emotions and thoughts that fill our soul. Through food we can deal with so many emotions, both good and bad. We can cover up insecurity and low self-esteem by either restricting or eating more than we need.

    All I would advice this mother to do is to be there for her daughter. Talk to her about how she feels about her health and the person she is. Help her to see and believe the beauty in herself, and the incredible talents she carry with her. Encourage her to make healthier options.
    Try to focus on HEALTH, not the numbers on the scale because they have nothing to do with her worth. But what she is worthy of is good health.
    And, please, never make her believe that thin equals happiness.

    All of my support,

  • Joy July 23, 2010, 5:03 pm

    Does the chicken or the egg come first…self esteem sounds like it could be the real problem, therefore, maybe therapy would be a good beginning. The girl may need a professional to help her express herself and discover that she is beautiful and perfect already. I noticed on the Biggest Loser that it was often necessary to help people come to terms with what was “creating” the low self esteem and the rest often falls into place. Mom

  • Jen July 23, 2010, 5:08 pm

    I think the mom is right to not be too preachy abuot her daughter’s weight, but I see a problem with regularly using eating out as a celebration. That forms counterproductive associations with food, as a reward-punishment system (and when I wasn’t at my optimal weight, I was always very self-conscious of how much I ate in public and compared what I ate to my fellow diners). I’ve always had my best relationship to food when I take a utilitarian approach and consider it only as fuel for my body. I think the mom ought to encourage other activities that her daughter enjoys, like maybe going to a theater or getting her nails done, whatever the daughter likes to do as a special treat instead.

    I also think that emphasizing that she has control over her body is important. The teen years are ones obsessed with labels, and girls especially think of their physical appearance as something permanently and inextricably linked to their personal identities. The daughter here might have characterized herself as a “fat girl” and views that as an immutable descriptor. I was much more encouraged and determined to change my health habits when I reminded myself that I can change. I think setting a lot of small goals would be good too; not “I want to lose X pounds” but “I want to walk two miles today” and then bumping that up to “I want to walk three miles” and so on. Encourage every healthy thing she does and recognize that each one is sufficient because she’s moving in the right direction.

  • The Healthy Hostess July 23, 2010, 5:16 pm

    I love everyone’s ideas! Signing up for a charity race and raising money for a good cause might be good! Then she could train for the event to raise money! This would take the focus to the charity?!
    Love the blog reading idea! I think blogs are so motivational!
    She could also start walking. For motivation maybe they could hang a map up and figure out how many miles to a certain place (I guess that would be a lot of miles for a beginner…) maybe a certain store. When she walked that many miles she could treat herself?!

  • D July 23, 2010, 5:49 pm

    A lot of people have suggested that her mom just leave her alone until she’s ready to figure it out by herself, but I tend to disagree with this for multiple reasons.

    1) Being severely overweight is a serious health risk, especially at a young age, and I doubt if her daughter was smoking cigarettes or binge drinking (which could also mask emotional problems, just lke obesity does) that commenters would suggest accepting her daughter “as she is”.

    2) You can’t “turn” someone anorexic or bulimic, and just because her mom gave her the straight facts and sort of monitored her closely doesnt mean that she would develop an eating disorder. BUT, then a lot of these commentors also said that the food is representing an emotional issue…so doesn’t that mean the girl already has disordered habits, and they are not “caused” by the mom bringing it up?

    3) I totally understand that it’s hard to lose weight if you are not personally ready, but I truly believe the sooner the better. There is already an issue there, and even though the girl might resent her mom for a year or two, her mom should think about the rest of her daughters life, and how the sooner she gets healthy, the better. Why let obvious problems continue?

    4) The people who say that you shouldn’t talk to her about her weight because you don’t to confuse weight with worth are the very people who cannot separate these ideas! I think it’s taboo to discuss in the blog world, but you CAN have a frank and straightforward discussion about weight without dealing with emotions. You CAN step on a scale and just deal with facts. Not talking about weight, not using the scale, not looking at the objective facts – this isn’t separating weight from worth, it’s encouraging it. It’s saying “let’s not look at the scale because it will necessarily affect how we feel about ourselves”. This isn’t true! You can accept someone how they are, and still tell them they need to lose weight.

    I definitely believe you have to have self-esteem to want to change yourself (including losign weight), but at such a sensitive time in her life, losing weight will, like it or not, most likely increase her self-esteem.

  • Dee July 23, 2010, 6:40 pm

    I think my first comment didn’t go through, I got an error message. This will force me to be more concise:

    I think one strategy could be for Mom to firmly let her daughter know that she will pick one activity, but the activity will be daughter’s choice. Mom can suggest a few to get her thinking about it, but encourage her to explore at bookstore’s fitness section and online to find an idea that strikes her as fun. She may think nothing is fun at first, but let her come up with ideas, and pick one by a deadline. (one week should be enough time).

    I am focusing on fitness first, because I think the daughter will find that once she gets moving, she will enjoy it and exercise also boosts mood, as well as getting skilled at something improves self-esteem.

    Be creative in suggestiong: Dance class, but only in the right environment. Where I live there’s a great place that caters to diverse abilities and body sizes, does funky stuff like capoeira and more. An All-female bootcamp. A training team for a 5k. Find a way to inspire her.

    I’d say “harp” less on food while providing healthy meals. If she gets moving this is going to make a big difference at this stage.

  • Elizabeth July 23, 2010, 6:54 pm

    I agree with a lot of these comments. I graduated from high school 2 years ago, and my sister is 15, so I’m a lot closer to your daughter’s age. The most important thing I found was having a supportive group of friends. People who will accept her and support her without comments about each others’ weight will help her become happier. I think that if she can become confident at this weight, it will be easier to lose the weight. If she has a low self esteem and loses weight, it may not solve the issues and she may end up gaining weight back.
    I was also forced in a way to get some sort of exercise by my parents. They didn’t drive me unless I absolutely needed it, so I rode my bike to school. They also rode their bikes to work and for errands. Even though I was active and did multiple sports for most of my time in high school, I was always guaranteed to get 30 minutes of cycling in. Taking walks together or going for bike rides together are other things my family does.

  • maria @ Chasing the Now July 23, 2010, 7:21 pm

    I think it is always good if kids/teens can get involved in a sport. Sometimes this is hard when you are already overweight, but if she can find something she enjoys it might change everything for her.

  • CinciMom11 July 23, 2010, 7:44 pm

    This was me. I weighed in at 220 my first year of high school. This young lady will one day decide that she wants to lose weight, and then she’ll lose it. She’s got a caring and supportive mother willing to help her, and I’m sure she knows what she needs to do. She has to make the decision for herself to lose weight. The best things mom can do are to not push her to lose weight and to be there to support her when she’s ready.

  • Courtney July 23, 2010, 8:03 pm

    I’ve only skimmed the comments and see a lot of what I’m about to say – and I’m going to try to keep it short!

    This is something I still struggle with at the age of 35 that started when I was about 8.

    Please, please, please talk to your daughter about why she is eating (and it sounds like she is doing it without your knowledge – the sneaking food that STILL plagues me.) Please please please help her figure out why she is turning to eating NOW and don’t let her do it on her own. I ate, and still eat because I feel lonely. I am working on this daily – but REALLY wish someone would have helped me out when I was a teenager – and they just didn’t.


  • Caitlin July 23, 2010, 8:54 pm

    As someone who was overweight all my life, especially in my teen years, I have so much respect for this mother for trying to help her daughter. It sounds like she is doing everything right – encouraging healthy eating and activity. I know many girls/women who have terrible relationships with their mothers who were constantly reminding them that their were overweight.
    The only advice I can offer to her as someone who has been there is that she KNOWS she is overweight. She lives with it every day, and she is going to have to be the one to decide to do something about it. She is going to have to reach a point where she decides to make a change in her life. It isn’t something anyone else can do for her. All this mom can do is continue to love and support her in making healthy choices.

  • Heather July 23, 2010, 11:45 pm

    As someone who was an overweight teen (and, no offense to those of you who considered yourself overweight with only 10-20 pounds to lose, but it IS different being 50+ pounds overweight as a teenager), I think some important questions are:

    – Does she REALLY want to lose weight? Is she miserable because people are making her think she needs to lose weight, or is she really unhappy with her body?
    – Does she have an activity/exercise she enjoys? A sport? Finding a fun fitness thing is important, and making it about just MOVING and enjoying all that our bodies are capable of instead of how many calories burned is so important.
    – Does she have any health problems? I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) and while I was always a chubby kid, I gained about 70 pounds in a year all due to a hormonal imbalance that went undetected for years because doctors thought I just needed to “stop eating junk and play a sport.” Really, Western medicine is kind of screwed up, and there are SO many doctors who give armchair diagnoses without really examining a patient. If she is eating relatively healthy and still gaining weight, it *could* be a health condition.
    – Is she bullied a lot? Does she talk about it? It’s important to have a community of people/friends who respect you for who you are. Help her find such a thing!
    – DON’T PUSH HER TO LOSE WEIGHT. Don’t ask her if she’s “sure” she wants a piece of cake, or if she should “really be eating pizza for dinner” — FOOD POLICE SUCK. If an overweight person wants to eat junk food, let them. Most people are aware that certain foods are “empty calories” and not good for us, but that is up to an individual to do. Policing food can lead to disordered eating habits.

    – Like you mentioned, Caitlin, weight loss does not always mean skyrocketing confidence. Working on self-esteem is SO important. Maybe have her spread some Operation Beautiful notes, talk to her about magazine advertising, talk to her about the beauty myth (actually, “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf is a great book), and just remind her that you can be happy and confident at ANY SIZE.

    Good luck to this teen! I know what it was like, and 10 years later I’m still not thin, but I am the happiest I have EVER been because I learned to love myself! (And yeah, it took 10 years to get here.)

  • Amelia July 24, 2010, 2:14 am

    How about Weight Watchers online? I couldn’t get DH to go to meetings but he loves WW online.

  • Samantha July 25, 2010, 7:41 pm

    I am almost the same size as AMom’s daughter..and I was that way all through high school. My sister is much larger than me and always had a harder time in schoo because of her weight. The reason I didn’t always feel out of place was because of my ability to make people laugh. I like to difuse awkward situations with laughter and it always helped me feel better about myself, even though I knew I didn’t fit in weight wise.

    I have a feeling any type of “weight loss” talks will only cause the problem to become worse; it never helped my sister or myself. Just tell her you are there to listen is she needs you. Personality is so much more important than looks!

  • Stephanie July 26, 2010, 11:26 am

    My parents made comments about my weight when I was in HS, specifically because my dad’s side of the family was always overweight and had all of the health issues to boot. It definitely killed my self-esteem (still kind of does – I have really bad body issues), especially since my sister was always the super-skinny one and she never was the recipient of the comments. My parents finally stopped harping on food/weight, and I started finding more and more things in common with my mom – we knit, we walk together, we cook together, we try new vege/vegan based recipes at times – and I find that was probably my tipping point initially. Now that I’m married (and had gained 40 lbs over 4 years), I’m getting back into that healthy lifestyle.

    Maybe what AMom needs to do is find some things in common so they can go from there. It really only takes one small step to rebuild the self-confidence that leads back to a healthy lifestyle (not just healthy eating or exercising).

  • elaine! July 26, 2010, 4:41 pm

    What a dilemma. Reading the comments, I realized that I was a fat kid, but I was also an incredibly happy kid. My parents never once made a comment about my size or shape other than, “You’re beautiful” — even when we had to go to the plus-size women’s clothing store to get me school clothes that fit in with the uniform policy.

    If the Weight Watcher’s idea what Mom’s, the daughter might already be internalizing how she’s not “good enough” for Mom because of her weight (even though Mom obviously never intended it that way). The best idea might be to find an appropriate role model for the daughter who isn’t a family member, so that the daughter gets support without feeling judged. Because no matter the intentions, kids always feel judged by their parents. Hell, even adult children have a tough time with that.

    • elaine! July 26, 2010, 4:47 pm

      Another thing… it actually took me a really long time to realize that my mom had body issues the whole time my brothers and I were growing up. Dense as ever, I had always chalked her style up to being overly modest. In reality she was simply self-conscious.

      It’s kind of funny, because it’s a topic that we never really talked about when I was younger, but now that I’m an adult we bond over it. I usually find myself in a position of bolstering up HER body image and self esteem, now.

      Anyway, I guess why I’m saying this, is because maybe Mom is subconsciously passing on her own body image issues in some way? Kids are so perceptive, she might not even realize she’s doing it.

  • Kayla January 4, 2011, 2:19 pm

    I have a 14 year old friend of mine who is morbidly obese. She is the sweetest girl though and I’m trying to be an example to her with my healthy habits. II don’t want to be preachy or give her any meal suggestions, because, well I don’t want her to take it the wrong way! She says she tries to work out on the treadmill but I don’t think she’s consistent with it. I feel like I could do so much to help her and we could exercise together if I just wasn’t afraid to offend her!

    • Caitlin January 4, 2011, 2:30 pm

      If you guys are really friends, I would just be honest! Like, if this was my friend, I would say, “Sarah, I love you so much and I really care about your mental and physical health. I love working out with other people and cooking together so if you ever want a workout buddy, I’m here for you!” And just see what she says.

  • Meghan January 4, 2011, 9:23 pm

    Hi Caitlin,

    Not sure if this is already been mentioned, but I would also suggest that the mom talk with her daughter’s doctor about a cause for the weight problem that is out of the girl’s control, ex. a thyroid problem or PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). I was overweight in high school and the first year of college, despite eating well (not perfect, but well), working out 5 times a week, being active with my friends, and playing multiple interscholastic and intramural sports. My parents were constantly on me about my weight despite all of this, and it put a huge strain on their relationship.

    After an accident during an intramural game, the orthopedic I saw for treatment for that condition suggested that there was another cause for my obesity. From that point it was 8 months until I received my diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome – which I have had, judging from when the weight gain started, for about 5 years. It is SO important that this mother make sure that there is not a condition impeding her daughter’s journey to a healthy and happy lifestyle.

    • Meghan January 4, 2011, 11:43 pm

      Whoops, I meant it put a huge strain on our relationship, not theirs!

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