Originally Posted by neonalee
She has asked for help with her emotional eating & carb issue but it's impossible to help without making it worse. The unfortunate alternative to that is the recurring "I'm fat " meltdown. From what she says her mom was always telling her she was fat, her hair style made her look fat, buying clothes in huge sizes, etc. How accurate her recounting of those conversations is I don't know. but I think it is telling that she told dp she wishes I were her real mom.
I have a 12-y-o step-son who lives with us. He also has carb-loading/couch potato issues that become pretty intense when he's with his Mom. (He routinely gains 2+ pounds/week and 2-3 pants sizes, in the 7 weeks he spends with Mom each summer. This is exacerbated by the fact that he's very short for his age.) So, I understand the tightrope:
#1- You don't want to hurt the child, by making him/her feel you disapprove of how he/she looks; and you don't want to make him/her crave unhealthy food, by being too stringent/controlling;
#2- You want to help him/her learn how to be healthy, and to feel good about his/her own body, instead of self-conscious!
I think your step-daughter asking for help is important and shouldn't be ignored. My step-son is not the type to come out and say he wants to lose weight. But, when he's heavy, he's reluctant to do things he likes, like swim (esp. without a shirt); or be active outside with his friends. He's less social. He will take the initiative to mention how much he weighs (but claim to weigh much less than he really does). He'll also continue to wear pants he's clearly outgrown; or he'll wear the larger sizes that actually fit him, but roll the waistband way down under his belly and complain that they're too big. So, he either hopes these things will confuse others into thinking he's not heavy; or he hopes to confuse himself? But the bottom line is, the weight bothers him and affects his happiness and comfort in his own skin. So I view all his behavior as a cry for help similar to your step-daughter's more direct one.
We never "put him on a diet" or directly tell him he "needs to lose weight". We just can't see how that would help, if he's already self-conscious about how he looks. We do these things:
* Make sure he's enrolled in an organized sport, in fall and winter. He can choose the sport, but he can't choose to opt out. It makes it easier that the other kids in our home are athletic, so we can say sports are just something we promote, as parents. It's never portrayed as something meant to "fix" him. Spring, for some reason, always seems busy and never a convenient time for sports. But by then, he has always slimmed down and doesn't hesitate to get outside and ride his bike, or run around with the neighborhood kids.
* We work out at the Y, take hikes, etc. as a family. And, when appropriate, we say, "Enough electronics. Go do something outside." If there aren't other kids in your home or neighborhood, then it's even more incumbent on you and your husband to get outside and do things with your step-daughter.
* We make healthy, balanced meals (which you said you also do). We send DSS a healthy lunch every day, although - as you pointed out - we recognize we have no control over what he actually eats then.
* We openly discuss ideas about food, as generalities, not lessons specifically aimed at DSS. For example, one of our kids might suggest serving garlic bread with our pasta; and that provides a nice opportunity to discuss that cultural stereotypes make that seem normal, but it's really not healthy to add bread to all the carbs we're already getting in the pasta. Likewise, we talk about how juice is marketed as super-healthy, but we wouldn't snarf down 6 pieces of fruit in one sitting and that's basically what we're doing if we pour a tall glass of juice - getting all that sugar and all those calories, at once. Yes, it's better than a tall glass of Coke - because of the vitamins - but not nearly as healthy as taking a vitamin and eating one apple or orange. Plus, you have to watch it, because many juices are inexplicably sweetened with corn syrup! I try to remember to phrase things not always like a nutrition lecture, but from one carb-lover to another: "Boy, I'd love three servings of that carbonara, too! But I suspect I want it because it tastes so good, not because my body really needs more of it. I think if we're still hungry, we'd better have more salad."
* Sometimes we just say no. "Hold on. You just had a breakfast burrito. A bowl of cereal isn't a good chaser. Try some fruit."
* As a general rule, we don't keep junk food in the house. It's as much for me, as anyone else! If it's not there, no one's going to snack on it. If you really need a snack, there's fruit...and carrots...and cucumbers...and yogurt... However, we do go out for the occasional ice cream; and after Mass, we have donuts with everyone else, in the church basement - stuff like that. If the kids NEVER get treats, then sugar might be all they think about!
As far as your original question - Lara bars - I don't know how they compare to Clif bars nutritionally. But here, Clif bars are only for when you feel starving after a serious workout and meal-time is a long way off. They're like 350 calories and high in fat. They're small and feel like a snack, but nutritionally they're more like a meal - not something to nosh on when you get home from school, two hours before dinner. My older sons are long-distance runners and go through a lot of Clif bars. I know this makes DSS feel a little left out, because I don't really offer them to him, when he's playing sports like baseball (which is active and valuable, just not an intense workout). So I buy him Clif "Z" bars. Personally, I think they taste better; and nutritionally they're more akin to a chewy granola bar, with protein.
I think a 12-y-o girl who wants help with her diet is old enough to discuss avoiding processed foods like snack bars that pack fat, carbs, sugar and calories into a package so small that it doesn't always feel satisfying and substantial, when you're eating it. You should also tell her you love her and think she's beautiful, regardless what she weighs; and that you're not discussing her diet because you need her to be different, but because she asked for help and you want her to feel good about her body and to be healthy!
Edited by VocalMinority - 9/19/11 at 11:41pm