Help with Overweight Step Son - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 10-18-2005, 01:20 AM - Thread Starter
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I have lurked here for a long while but I am now in serious need of your help and wisdom. My stepson, who just turned 11 is overweight. Not too badly - ~122 lbs. for about 4' 9" tall. His (bio) father has some serious issues with this that date back to his own childhood, so he tends to overreact to his son's weight. I am concerned because of the form that overreaction takes - tonight he had both DSS and DSD in tears when he began to rant about the height/weight chart from the pediatrician. I was hugging both kids and sitting in miserable silence - if I say anything I risk fueling the fire.

Rather than try to argue with my DH in front of our sweet, sweet children, I would like some input on how others have helped their overweight children. He lectures, but it's not really an effective way to reach DSS. He just really is hurt that he can't eat ice cream and second helpings like his skinny cousins. He doesn't really like physical exercise so his Dad drags him out to go rollerblading, bicycling and stuff. Has anyone got any ideas on how to make the more-exercise-less-food equation more palatable?

Additionally, there are issues with the "other household" which is, um, less than supportive of this. They encourage general couch-potato-ness and sometimes undermine what Dad is trying to do with kids - exercise, eat small portions of what you love, etc. Anyone ever had to manage this 50% of the time with a radical change from house to house?

TIA for your help.
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#2 of 7 Old 10-18-2005, 02:42 AM
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I don't have any advice as far as how to control the situation. I will say coming from someone who was a chubby kid the scars of being told you are chubby, need to diet etc can last a long, long time! He will likely have peers making comments he doesn't need a parent doing it. I would suggest model good eating habits and exercise but not make a huge deal out of it. Some people are prone to being overweight it is a known fact.
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#3 of 7 Old 10-25-2005, 06:03 PM
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My son was very chubby until he hit puberty. I told him it was a phase that he will go through because every boy in my family has done so. I warned him that just as soon as he hits puberty then he will grow taller and thinner.

I was right, it worked.

Now there are some children who stay chubby clear through adulthood. It's usually in their genes. They need help accepting it.

I didn't finish reading your post. I kink of lost it when you had to hug your crying children because of his ranting over a chart. If he was chubby as a child and now isn't, then his child should expect the same to happen to him.

I would encourage the child to not stress until after puberty hits.

I would give the husband a what for. Tell his mother on him if you have to. Mother's are good about reminding their adult children how it was when they were children themselves. Don't give the husband the what for in front of the children though. Wait until you're good and alone, then let him have it.
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#4 of 7 Old 10-25-2005, 06:59 PM
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I understand that your husband has issues of his own and that this is distressing to him, hence the ranting. That doesn't make it any less abusive. If he can't see it as such, maybe you can get him to understand that shaming and coercing are going to backfire and create a low level of self-esteem and an unheathy eating disorder, whether it be obsessively eating too little or too much (with a boy, most likely the latter.) The fact is that your son probably normally doesn't eat more than the people around him and his body just deals with the food differently. This is genetic and is certainly nothing he should be yelled at for. It's not his fault. If your husband continues to behave as if it is fault, though, your son will develop a complex about it, develop an emotionally unhealthy relationship to food. He's going to end up hiding his food consumption, binging, and not paying attention to what his body really needs. It's probably already started, thanks to your husband.

The only hope there is of your son achieving a healthy weight for his body (which, it must be said, may NOT be what your husband perceives as "healthy") is to make it a non-issue so that the psychological element is not undermining his body's ability to self-regulate. That means apologizing for past ranting, and saying no more about it. Of course it would also be helpful to provide appealing healthy foods and offer opportunities to be physical in a fun way that isn't for the express purpose of losing weight, i.e., something you would do even if the weight wasn't an issue. Until your family is living this way naturally (and not just as a tactic to get your son to change) it's not going to feel natural for him and he's not going to do it.

I know your husband doesn't know any better, and I hope he's acting like a jackass only out of concern for your son and not because he is ashamed of having a son that isn't what society regards as perfect. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and think he could get past it. If he can't, you need to intervene and start speaking up for the boy. Tell him that his dad is wrong, and talk to him about how some bodies process food differently, that bodies grow at different rates, about how some foods are addictive and some are harder on the body than others, that it isn't his fault and that there is nothing wrong with him. That's the best thing you can do for him.
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#5 of 7 Old 10-27-2005, 04:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you for your replies. To reply to some of your concerns:

I don't think that the overweightness is genetic - the rest of DH's family is very thin. The food issues from DH's background are about not having enough and being darn grateful for what you do have.

I was really hoping for some ideas about what to do with different houses/different eating styles. One of the areas of conflict DH and DSS have is DSS eats poorly when he is at his Mom's house. Mom loves meat, hates vegetables and his DSF is a snak-o-holic. He thinks the green onion part of sour cream and green onion chips counts as a vegetable, I guess. Not that we're perfect, but I don't eat anything I can't pronounce and we do get daily exercise. DH takes the kids rollerblading when he runs after work, for instance. We all walk the dogs. We play sports (DSS is on the school volleyball team and we practice with her). And so on... At his Mom's DSS and his DSF watch DVDs and play GameBoy. We're talking opposite ends of the scale here. And of course, DVDs, satellite television and GameBoy are much more exciting than volleyball with your big sister.

DSS has hit the beginning stages of puberty which is part of why DH is worried- early onset puberty is often a result of too much weight and sometimes set the stage for type 2 (??) diabetes in children. I'm not too sure on some of this; it is DH who is the paramedic and asserts this. DH is also concerned that is DSS doesn't develop some sort of good eating habits now, he'll be in for a lifetime battle with weight and food. I understand that as I walk that path daily.

And that is my concern -- that DSS is eating to eat, rather than to feed hunger. I think the kid has been through alot in the last 18 months - two remarriages, starting middle school, etc. I think the eating has something to do with that. I carry baggage about food and weight issues. I remember stealing food because I was hungry, dammit, and my mother insisted that I had had enough to eat or I eat whatever crap (really, no other word for it) she had slopped together or go hungry, or, or, or... I was teased unmercifully by Dad (!!) about my body when I was a teenager - it only took me a therapist and two years to even acknowledge the damage, but I'm still not completely over it. I cried when I discovered some food missing from the pantry. I immediately suspected DSS and don't want DSS to feel the same pain that I did. I didn't confront him because I felt that I would be "trapping" him and he'd just try to lie his way out of it anyway (I know I did).

That's why I am as such a loss. I don't have any good answers and being told to "wait and see" isn't the right answer because I just see things getting worse. I wish I could ask DSS what is wrong and get a real, meaningful answer. I want to help him.

FWIW, I did tell his Dad (DH) not to yell at him. I did go and try to reassure DSS later that his Dad does love him and that's why he is worried, but Dad just doesn't always say stuff real well.

So we're at an impasse. I'd gladly welcome any more insight that any of you may have.
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#6 of 7 Old 11-13-2005, 04:45 AM
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Just wanted to say that 11 doesn't sound too early for beginning puberty in boys. I am no expert but sounds like an early side of normal range. Have you looked into it? I teach 7/8 grade and there are plenty who are shaving and manly looking. Your ss is probably in 6th grade?

We struggle too with the junk at mom's house thing. Dss was never into sports (reading/computers/legos/that sort of thing) but he has recently taken up karate and he loves it.

We just do what we can when we have him. But, we have never once mentioned his weight or anything in front of him. We just talk about how we ALL should be healthier.
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#7 of 7 Old 05-15-2013, 08:48 AM
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I am In nearly the same boat and although I don't have any great advice, I did want to let you know you aren't alone. I completely agree the wait and see plan isn't effective and the fear of juvenile diabetes is legitimate. I'm going to keep trying different methods and approaches, with a serious focus on dealing with the emotional issues that are the root of the over eating. I'll let you know if I find something effective. Until then, stay confident that your heart is in the right place.
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