My 15-year-old is what we used to call "pleasantly plump." She should lose about ten pounds, but she has stabilized at that weight and doesn't binge. She has a very pretty face, beautiful curly hair and a great personality. She is a good student and popular in school. Most of the year she is very happy.
The problem is the summer, when kids spend so much time swimming. Most of her friends, both girls and boys, are very thin. Some look almost anorexic. I have tried to talk to her about self esteem not being about externals, like the body, but she is a sensitive girl and feels shy about the fact that she doesn't have a model's body. She has passed up invitations to go to the beach and the pool with friends because of her weight, yet she doesn't seem to have the motivation to stick to the diets I have suggested. When her friends are swimming, she doesn't sit at home moping, and she finds other things to do, but I would like to see her out with the others. Any advice?
Mother of Pretty but Pudgy
From what you describe, your daughter sounds pretty well-adjusted and happy, does not appear to be a compulsive eater and doesn't sound like she is obsessing about her weight, even though she is shy about appearing in a bathing suit in public. Could you, on the other hand, be sending her mixed messages by both telling her that her self-esteem should not be affected by her weight at the same time you are finding diets for her? Is it possible that there is some identification on your part with her? You mentioned she "should lose ten pounds," so she may feel that her weight is not acceptable to you. (And by the way, like it or not, due to the society in which we live, our self-esteem IS affected by the way we look.)
Unfortunately, modern western culture also sends mixed messages by pushing "Thin is beautiful," leading to what is almost an epidemic of anorexia, especially among teens, at the same time that heavily advertised fattening junk food places spring up like mushrooms after the rain.
Some strategies for preventing overweight in children: Have plenty of healthy, non-fattening foods in the house, including lots of attractive vegetables and fruits and whole grain products. Set a good example yourself by healthy eating and exercise. Don't serve fattening deserts at the end of every meal. Don't use food as a reward or to comfort.
As long as your daughter is happy doing other things, don't push her to go to the beach with her friends. Drop the subject of weight totally and, when the opportunities arise naturally, give her positive feedback on her activities, her personality and on her attractive physical features.
Someday, when and if it is important to her, she will lose a few pounds, or find a bathing suit that is flattering, or decide that the feel of ocean waves is more important that looking like a matchstick.
And hey, in this day of sunscreen and beach coverups, many kids prefer to wear T-shirts over their suits anyway. (We'll even be selling them soon at WholeFamily!)
Enjoy the rest of your summer,