I have a bit of a confusing situation. I have two beautiful daughters, ages 20 and 13. Both of them have weight struggles. A year ago, we were the classic “fat family.” A year ago, I had gastric bypass, and I have lost 110 pounds, going from “morbidly obese” to normal. At the time, I struggled with that decision, but I truly hoped that I could help my family achieve a healthier lifestyle by making positive changes for myself.
For a while, it was great. My 13-year-old (the only one still at home), was making great choices, and she was losing at a healthy pace and doing great. Then, she hit a plateau and became very discouraged, and went right back into her old habits. Now she has regained and is showing signs of depression, which worries me terribly. I know it doesn’t help at all that Mom is now “skinnier” than she is. My 20-year-old just keeps telling me that I “cheated,” which is hurtful to me, but I don’t know how to encourage her while she’s away at college.
Can you help???
Congratulations on your weight loss. Gastric bypass is not “cheating.” For adult women with long term weight struggles, it frequently is a medically indicated choice. Furthermore, it does take self discipline and appetite control to maintain weight loss after bypass, so if you are maintaining, you are doing hard work.
20 year olds, especially girls, tend to be judgmental towards their parents. It’s best simply to say “I’m sorry you feel that way, it felt like and continues to feel like hard work to me. I know a lot more about healthy living than I did, and I’m hoping that you and your sister can learn from me, and avoid having to do life-altering surgery to control your weight.”
If you have the resources, you could offer to help your 20-year-old find a reputable weight reduction program (Weight Watchers is affordable and has very good outcome statistics). Hopefully she could find the camaraderie and support she needs to change her habits.
For your 13-year-old, I have a few suggestions:
• Hook her up with fitsmi.com, a social network and “Change Machine” for teen girls struggling with their weight. She can pick her own healthy changes to track online and share her progress with other teenage girls who blog, post photos, share thoughts, experiences, and ideas. Knowing you’re not alone and being around other teens who are trying to improve their health can be powerful motivators.
• Be careful how you dress around her, especially in public, to try to minimize comparisons. For example, if you have thin ankles and she has heavy ones, choose slacks if she’s wearing a skirt.
• Share with your 13-year-old the story of your weight gain and some sense of your attempts to lose weight. For example, how many times did you give up like she did, when perseverance might have saved you from major surgery? Let her know that perseverance in weight management almost always pays off in the long run.
• Offer your help. If she doesn’t know how you could help, offer her a laundry list to choose from. This list could include things like making her a healthy before-school breakfast, packing her a healthy lunch, cooking healthy dinners, planning and preparing together healthy desserts and snacks, having friends at your house so you two can control the food environment, being active together (walking, biking, skating, sledding, swimming, dancing, etc).
Above all else, continue to be a good role model. Do not let yourself slip into the old habits that led you to obesity. Get the support you need to do this. Most bariatric centers have after-surgery support groups that are great for helping maintain good habits. Weight Watcher’s also is a good program to help you learn more about weight maintenance.
Photo credit Rochelle, Just Rochelle