Archived Forum: Parenting & Caregiving > worried about my daughter

my oldest daughter is 13 going on 14. She started her period at 11 and she has always been big build for want of a better word. She has a very broad back, solid legs and a tummy. She is beautiful. She is now a bmi 23 ( she had a recent medical) and was deemed "normal weight) She eats well but def not loads. i eat much more than her. Does this mean that she will continue to gain weight? does she need to eat more to have an optimal metabolism. I am terrified that she will start dieting and start the vicious weight cycling circle. her dad is always going on on how " chubby" she is and how she she shoould do more sport, He obviously is thinking along the lines of energy in energy out . After reading all the info on this site, I dont know what or how I should guide her. of course at her school all the so called popular girls are skinny and underdeveloped. I told her openly how I wasted many yeasr of my life with an ed, and that thin is def not IN. Thankfully at the moment her self esteem seems high, and she equates curves with happiness and appeal. i think that as she saw me so sad when i was really underweight that thinness to her means sick.
any input greatly appreciated!!

April 14, 2012 | Registered Commenteramberdelfine

Hmm.. if she never had an ED I don't think you should force her to eat more, or worry at all about her diet. Just let her continue eating intuitively. If her Dad's concerned about her weight, then maybe you could let her try some sort of sport? As long as she continues eating intuitively, her body will make sure she doesn't have any energy deficits. Maybe try a team sport, so she'll make new friends? Sport isn't all about losing weight, it's also about health, coordination, being more in touch with your body..

April 14, 2012 | Registered Commenterpaulad

Hi amberdelfine!
I have a 16 year old and often find myself worrying too.
Likely your daughter will continue to gain and even be chubby for a while since it is the age where a ton of development is under way. And likely, she also has inherited your genes and is susceptible to an ED if she is not vigilant.
What I try and do is develop in her a healthy body image. I tell her all the wonderful ways in which our bodies look after us and all the development that is going on inside that we are unaware of. Of how life holds so many opportunities for her and how health is how optimal health is critical to achieving her dreams in life.
Other than that, I try and not make an issue of food unless I see her talk about her tummy or about how other girls diet. I then remind her how restriction will affect her hormones, her development, her mental capabilities - how the brain needs 20% of our intake and how it will starve. I also have told her that since she may have my genes, she is never to restrict, even if everyone of her friends do.
Things will be fine as long as you are vigilant and work on her loving herself just the way she is. If ever concerned, remind her that her life is full of dreams and aspirations rather than a number on the scale. Most importantly, do not worry. She has a wondeful life ahead because she is the daughter of a woman who is aware and has fought the toughest battle. All the best!

April 15, 2012 | Registered Commenterduoinside

You are doing the right thing by being honest about your own struggles because it can frame any behaviours she has seen in you in the right way (kids osmose everything).

In fact, team sports that do not emphasize weight (soccer, volleyball, basketball, softball) have also been shown to inoculate girls against early dieting and restrictive eating behaviours and it appears to protect them throughout middle and high school years as well. And it definitely is not about losing weight nor should it ever be.

And her father needs to get educated on the damage that can be caused by his commenting on a girl's shape or size as she develops -- and it's seriously dangerous given that she could indeed have inherited a pre-disposition to end up on the restrictive eating disorder spectrum herself.

He needs to understand that girls go through specific "chubby" phases (as to many boys) at various points along the development to adulthood and that this is the body preparing for massive maturation and the energy necessary to accomplish it successfully is huge.

If your daughter is a high-achiever and seems to become easily disappointed in a less than perfect performance on her part then those are signs that she can benefit from the team sports I have mentioned (if she indeed has any interest in them) and should definitely avoid any involvement in body-conscious sports (gymnastics, figure skating, dance, distance running, cheerleading, etc.).

If she has an anxious and perfectionist approach to life then it will be an outside seemingly innocuous comment or criticism that will come her way that may be enough to have her attempt a diet. The culture of the team sports I mention tend to create a group of girls who view dieting as "stupid" and this offers a knee-jerk dismissal of nasty comments about weight from peers. It's all about the peers and if you are hanging with a bunch of girls who can scissor kick the ball in the net, then you base your success on physical skills like that rather than being thin and weak.

Another way to help reinforce positive body image (thereby lessening the push to diet) is to see if she would be interested in getting involved with you in ambassador efforts in schools to help all girls develop an abhorrence of food restriction and an appreciation of being at your body's optimal weight set point. Now you have to be somewhat careful with this on two counts: 1) it can inadvertently create a shroud of secrecy for her if she does develop an eating disorder herself and 2) it can enmesh the two of you in your eating disorder rather than just you and she as mother and daughter.

For item (1) she can feel that she has such a reputation of being an ambassador for health and positive body relationships that if she starts to develop restrictive eating behaviours she will feel she is letting absolutely everyone down.

For item (2) it can feel too much like you are business partners if the responsibilities of ambassadorship require that you and she have a professional veneer to your interactions when you are also going through her teen years. That can add a lot of stress that may harm your recovery as well as harm your relationship with each other.

You know you and your daughter well enough to determine if any of these ideas have any merit.

Hope the ideas are useful in creating maybe some more options in your mind. G.

April 17, 2012 | Registered CommenterGwyneth

Wow what great input! Thanks paulad,duoinside and Gwyneth for taking the time to answer to this. It has always been a problem for me to avoid projecting my fears on to her. As i'm nearing (i hope) complete remission I desp want to educate her on the perils of restriction. ( that i learned too late) it makes me shudder to think she could develop an ED and all the misery that comes with it.
The " ambassador" to young girls in schools seems a wonderful idea, definitely to warn of the perils of dieting and feeling dissatisfied with ones own body. it has def got me thinking.
And yep team sports is a great idea ( thanks Paulad) we live near the beach in sunny spain so summer is volleyball season.
i def need to sit down and talk with her dad, he still calls me "anorexic" even though i eat more than him he is completely oblivious at times.
Again thankyou for all your inputs

April 17, 2012 | Registered Commenteramberdelfine