Food Blues as a Teenager

I remember distinctly being a young teen (and probably even younger) and my dad would hover over me about everything I ate. It would fill me with part anger at him and part embarrassment towards myself. I couldn’t stop eating and I definitely wanted to stop.

I was overweight probably from about age 8 until about 17 when I began starving myself. Something though that stands out so much from those years (even more so than the teasing in school) was my dad’s obvious frustration with me. He couldn’t stand how badly I ate and of course how much I ate as well.

If he saw me eating a bowl of cereal late at night he’d remark “isn’t it a little late to be eating that?” or if I enjoyed the rolls before a meal at a restaurant he’d say “make sure to save room for your meal.” Looking back while it still stings quite a bit I can’t help but wonder if he was actually trying to help me, not hurt me.

I remember watching an episode of Oprah where they were condemning a father who would berate his overweight daughter on what she ate but didn’t do the same with his thin daughters. The daughter cried at how much it hurt her but the father stood his ground that he was trying to help her. It occurred to me that maybe my father was really worried for me, as he probably should have been.

Is it possible to help a kid with what they are eating without hurting their feelings? If they are already overweight and they already feel bad you probably need to tread lightly. Would it be better just to change how they see food and maybe stop keeping so much cereal in the house? Teach them about food, don’t just talk down to them in the middle of a meal.

Looking back I wish my parents could have done more for me and I hope if I were ever in the position of parenting a young girl that I could help her. I think teenagers need empathy and understanding. Just telling a young girl she shouldn’t eat that doesn’t help anything or pointing out she’s fat only ends up being damaging. It’s about teaching them about food and showing them how to take the best care of themselves as possible.

  1. Leanne

    August 1, 2006 at 10:00 am

    Our 10 year old has some weight issues. She eats fast, lacks portion control – and is pretty sedentary. I’ve been focusing on teaching her proper nutrition since I started P2G last December. It’s not easy, and I know that her self-image is effected by my trying to teach her. I was never taught portions, or proteins – no one ever told me how to build a meal for fuel. No one explained to me how foods work in our systems, how carbs are burned, what fiber is used for. NOW, 35 years into the game, I’m starting to figure it out AND teach my family what I’m learning at the same time. I wish more parents would focus on it, it would save so many children right now – health issues are at an all time high for overweight and obese kids. Parents aren’t doing enough.

    Sorry for the long rant, I am so passionate about learning more about this and teaching my kids so I can help break this horrible cycle of prepackaged unbalanced preservatives I grew up with.

    Damn twinkies.

  2. Robin

    August 1, 2006 at 10:08 am

    Leanne – That is truly wonderful to hear and I’m sure your daughter will appreciate it eventually. It’s about teaching them to eat well but to also love themselves. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been so harsh if my dad had said something like “you are beautiful, you just need to eat better and care more about yourself” but that’s not how he works. Also his mother was completely fucked in the head about weight and such…she is who screwed me up the most. She told me nobody would love me if I was fat, well I guess I’ve proven her wrong. When I saw she was still dieting when she was in a wheel chair, I know I don’t want to end up like that. I think teenagers that are overweight are already sensitive so no matter what you say it will be hard but if you’re caring it will make a better difference.

    See, I rant as well :cheesy:

  3. maureen

    August 1, 2006 at 11:32 am

    You’re right when you say that “no matter what you say, it will be hard” on the kids. Just as it would be if you were speaking to an adult that you cared for who was doing something that was not only unhealthy, but that also made them a less attractive person (by media/superficial standards, anyway).

    My mom had her own weight issues, didn’t want me to suffer the same way she did, but knew that she had to walk a fine line between encouraging healthier habits, without making me feel bad about my own body as it was. This is especially hard since a large part of self-esteen is rooted in appearance (or acceptance by people who may judge you on your appearance).

    Best thing that a parent can do is to set as good an example as they can (considering their own body issues) and teach/encourage healthy eating & exercise starting at infancy.

  4. Robin

    August 1, 2006 at 11:36 am

    Maureen – Good points as always :thumbsup: You know thinking about it, I tend to snip at Erik if he comments that maybe I should eat the french fries or whatever. While he doesn’t do it like my dad it still reminds me of it. I get defensive and bitchy. If I were to raise a child I would try to ingrain good eating habits from day 1 and make it a point to eat only whole grains and lots of vegetables in the house. Erik and I don’t keep soda in our house at all and rarely juice. We mostly have water and sometimes beer. I think if you start right away with healthy habits it might be easier later on.

  5. Vixen

    August 1, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    The problem my sister and I had, with our dad of course, was that he’d be the one cutting the meat, chicken, whatever, and piling up our plates. Literally piling up food on our plates. Way too much food for a child, yet he’d berate us and yell at us to eat everything. Good grief, no wonder we grew up fat!
    Now, I know about portion control, etc, and it shows. I’ve lost 50 pounds, with another 30 to go. Which I’m sure I’ll lost half of that when I get my teeth pulled and will be toothless for 3 months! :thumbsup:

  6. Robin

    August 1, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    vixen – Sounds like YOU will be drinking shakes for a while.

  7. marie b.

    August 1, 2006 at 3:45 pm

    This post brought up some bad memories for me, but I love it.

    I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder (mainly) as a result of how my mother, father and brothers reacted to me when they saw me eating. I’d get the “are you sure you want that extra slice of pizza?”, the “isn’t it a bit late [8pm, usually] to be eating?” and even the “perhaps you should just -not eat- for a while” comments, and they stung to the core. They still do.

    I think that some parents use the excuse of “advising” their children to be hurtful because they just don’t know any better, saying that they’re doing their best. Sometimes their best isn’t good enough and can actually do unbelievable harm.

  8. Robin

    August 1, 2006 at 3:54 pm

    marie b. – Thanks for that, boy reading your comment was like reading something I’d say. I’ve had all of those things said to me and my issues with food are so enormous at this point it’s almost too overwhelming to deal with. It really scared me when one day I made the same kind of comment to my brother when he was younger and that was one of the moments that made me feel I shouldn’t become a parent. Thanks for visiting :wave:

  9. jane

    August 1, 2006 at 6:30 pm

    This made my heart sink. My daughter was first bulemic & then became anorexic. She traces it back to being made fun of in 5th grade, you know, when girls get a little pudgy cuz their body is going thru changes. None of her family ever criticized her eating, it was boys at school that teased her. Kid stuff.
    As a parent, it was the most horrible thing. Watching your child slowly kill themselves & being 100% helpless is an awful thing. Knowing the hell she was going thru made it even worse.
    Marie b., I am SO glad you’ve made it thru the nightmare. I’m glad you’re writing your feelings out & validating them. I’m giving you a virtual hug right now!

  10. Robin

    August 1, 2006 at 7:14 pm

    Jane – I’m sorry to bring up that pain. I feel awful for what I put my parents through but then again I wasn’t as bad as it gets either. I think my depression was the hardest part but they also felt the need to live in denial :dunno:

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