Help Your Teenage Daughter Manage Her Weight
The onus of responsibility for helping kids eat well and stay slim is ultimately on their parents. We know changes in family habits can go a long way with kids. And, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But, what if you already have a teen girl who is tipping the scale way above her recommended weight? The horse is out of the barn by this time, and parents, especially mothers, often feel completely hopeless in this situation. Mothers' responses can vacillate between trying to shame their girls into eating less and exercising more or becoming so prescriptive that they create a police state around food at home. The truth is, neither of these approaches is likely to be effective.
As a healthcare provider to teens, I suggest you take a proactive but behind-the-scenes approach to helping your daughter gain a better relationship with food and exercise. Parents need to keep in mind they are personae non grata for teens. Adolescent girls are in the process of becoming their own people, so the strategies that work for kids won't necessarily work for teens. Plus, being right "up in someone's business" about something they're having difficulty managing is annoying at any age. Teen girls need a kind-of MapQuest intervention from parents. Here are some examples of ways you can be helpful when you're daughter is desperately trying to beat the battle of the bulge.
First: Eat out less often
Next: Never shame your daughter or call her names
Next: Eat as many foods as possible that don't have an ingredient list
Next: Make healthy snacks easily available
Next: Encourage exercise in your daughter's life
Next: Be a shining example
Helping girls lose weight and keep it off is difficult—especially when your daughter is keeping you at a distance. But the process may feel less daunting if you change your perspective and think of this problem as a puzzle to solve. And remember, we need to partner with our daughters with an eye on health, not skinny. And if you do all this and your daughter remains a bit full-figured—so what? People can be healthy, even when they're not lean.
Evelyn Resh is director of sexuality and relationships programming for Miraval Resorts in Tucson. She is a certified sexuality counselor and nurse-midwife and continues her practice in both fields in Tucson and Western Massachusetts. She has taken care of teens and women of all ages in OB-GYN and primary care settings for more than 20 years and specializes in working with women 25 and under. She is also the mother of a 19-year-old daughter. Evelyn speaks all over the nation on topics related to women's health and sexual satisfaction and is the author of the new book The Secret Lives of Teen Girls: What Your Mother Wouldn't Talk about but Your Daughter Needs to Know published by Hay House Publishers.
More from Evelyn Resh:
How to talk to your daughter about weight
What if you love your teenage daughter but just can't stand her right now?
4 things your daughter needs to know before going to college