Pre-teen over-eating issues - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My middle child is going to be 12 next month. For a long time, we're talking at least 2 years but probably longer, we've had issues with her sneaking food and lying about it. I've tried to talk to her and I'm getting no where. A few weeks ago, my husband was doing some work in her room and when he moved her bed he found a huge stash of empty wrappers. Candy, chips, popsicles, tons of stuff. I'm constantly going to grab something and discovering it's all gone and no one will fess up to eating it. Today I complimented our youngest on eating everything on her plate even her corn only to be told she didn't eat it, her sister did! (our house is all torn up right now with remodeling so we weren't eating at the table and the girls had been left alone to finish eating when the rest of us were already done.) The other day a similar issue happened, the little one got up to go to the restroom to come back and find her plate more empty than when she left.

I don't know what to do anymore. I've tried talking and it's doing no good. I've always tried to set a good example yet she just ignores it. I'm trying to lose a lot of weight so I've taken on a healthier approach to my diet and make sure to include the kids when I'm planning meals so that they can learn about healthier choices and serving sizes. She doesn't seem to care. If I don't watch it, she'll eat more than my husband and I put together at a meal. I've tried not bringing junk food into the house but honestly she doesn't really seem to care what she's eating as long as it's more so limiting the junk is only restricting all of us.

I could use some advice on what to do. She's already at 160 pounds and honestly looks about 7 months pregnant because she's so heavy. My husband is threatening to put locks on all the cupboards as well as the fridge and deep freeze. 

I've struggled with my weight most of my adult life and it saddens me to see my daughter on a similar path to what I took. If someone could offer some suggestions, I'd appreciate it. I also wanted to apologize for the rambling writing. This is just a very sensitive subject for me so my thoughts are a little jumbled.

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#2 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 08:08 PM
 
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I say this because ive BTDT - i was like your daughter, and i think therapy might be a good idea.  There are plenty of specialists now under the umbrella title of 'food disorders'  - not like when i was 12 -  You say you struggle with your weight now too - dont you wish you had had the tools and insight to help yourself years ago?   I am trying to say this gently - i think its a bigger deal than many people think it is - and i think a professional could be of more help.  Good luck to her


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#3 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 08:15 PM
 
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hi

 

i struggled with this issue for a long time with my daughter and i wish i had an easy answer for you. She was always taking food and eating it in her room and then denying it...she was very  overweight from the ages of about 8 till 12, nothing i did would stop her, i did limit the amount of junk in the house so at least it was healthy food she was eating most of the time, but of course i could not limit what she was eating out of the house. She would spend her lunch money on junk or eat at her friends houses. In the end i just let it go and ignored it...i made a no eating the bedroom rule.. but you can eat what you like in the kitchin/living area...i made sure she was getting exercise...and healthy food at home. I think by the age of 12 she had to take some responsibility for what she was doing to her body. Now at 14 she is a normal weight some of this has to do with peer pressure and an interest in boyslol..but also the fact that i let her make her own choices. I should also add my daughter has some  emotional  issues that she is getting help  with and was also very unhappy at school for a few years..i had no idea about this until recently so maybe the over eating was a way for her to take some control over her life. Sorry if this is not much help to you just did not want to read and not reply 

 

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#4 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 08:23 PM
 
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First off, I'd make it clear that she can have as much food as she wants.

 

Secondly, I'd discuss cravings with her and talk about how various things cause different cravings.

 

Finally, I'd talk to her about body development and how she needs plenty of fat and protein and vitamins to support her during puberty.

 

Apologize for not realizing she was already old enough for that and promise to prepare more food for meals so there'll be plenty for everyone and leftovers for quick snacks.

 

 

She is snacking because she NEEDS to eat more than you and your husband during meals. Her weight gain is because of the snacking and the snacking is uncontrolled because she's doing it as a binge. She's probably also snacking at night which is going to interfere with her sleep which again causes weight gain--particularly in the abdomen.  Sneak eating is also a sign of stress, stress also causes abdominal weight.

 

Getting more fat, protein, fat, vitamins, and fat into her will help a lot.

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#5 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 08:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your replies. Don't worry about being too gentle. I need all the help I can get at the moment.

 

I've been thinking for hours tonight about if I should see about sending her to a therapist. I was just worried that I might be jumping the gun a little. Actually, I wish I'd made more of an issue when it was casually discussed with my son's psychiatrist the other day.

 

She's homeschooled so there isn't any worry about what she eats for lunch at school and really the only times she's eating away from home is when she's with her grandparents. And I've recently discovered that when grandpa picks them up saturday mornings for bowling, they hit McDonalds and he lets them eat whatever they want at the bowling alley. Yeah, grandpa and I have a a big discussion coming up.

 

Do I wish I had help years ago? Definetly! I've only been truely successful in my weightloss twice in my life. When I was trying to get pregnant with our youngest I dropped 30 pounds in 3 months but when I got pregnant I gained it all back and then some. The lessons I learned and the hard work I did kind of disappered when I reached my goal of getting pregnant. Now, I've lost 20 pounds in the past 2 months and have a better grasp on what I need to do to keep loosing and get healthy. I'm learning what I need to eat and what I need to avoid like the plague.And I've tried to pass it along to my children. With my son I've been really successful. He's dropped 15 pounds since November. His psychiatrist actually pointed out that I need to keep an eye on things to make sure he doesn't take a turn for an eating disorder of his own. Yeah that 15 pounds wasn't enough to be a cause for concern but with my son's compulsive tendencies, he said we should watch it just to be on the safe side.

 

On the snack issue, I have made sure to provide healthier options. At least the past few months. If it's not something I would eat then it's not something I will buy so any snacks in the house are healthy, unless hubby sneaks it in. However; being healthier options doesn't help a whole lot when it all disappears overnight.

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#6 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 08:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

First off, I'd make it clear that she can have as much food as she wants.

 

Secondly, I'd discuss cravings with her and talk about how various things cause different cravings.

 

Finally, I'd talk to her about body development and how she needs plenty of fat and protein and vitamins to support her during puberty.

 

Apologize for not realizing she was already old enough for that and promise to prepare more food for meals so there'll be plenty for everyone and leftovers for quick snacks.

 

 

She is snacking because she NEEDS to eat more than you and your husband during meals. Her weight gain is because of the snacking and the snacking is uncontrolled because she's doing it as a binge. She's probably also snacking at night which is going to interfere with her sleep which again causes weight gain--particularly in the abdomen.  Sneak eating is also a sign of stress, stress also causes abdominal weight.

 

Getting more fat, protein, fat, vitamins, and fat into her will help a lot.



I'm trying to figure out how to respond to this without sounding like I'm offended.

 

Our meals are well planned out nutritionally wise. I always make enough for all of us to eat as much as we want with enough to have leftovers. Do I think she needs more than us? Yes to a point. I can tell you the calorie, fat, carb, protein for what I had for dinner tonight and I know my husband ate more than I did. What I'm saying is that she ate more than both of us combined. My meal contained 457 calories, 57 carbs, 9 grams fat, 40 grams of protein. She ate more than double what I did. FOR DINNER. How can consuming 1000 calories and 100 carbs in one meal be not enough for an 11 year old girl? Yes the fat content was a little on the low side but not a whole lot low it's just how this particular meal turned out fat wise.

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#7 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 09:21 PM
 
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I can tell you that my 12 y/o can easily eat more than either my husband and I.  It is almost always in retrospect that I see that the times she was most ravenous, were the times preceding physical growth.  It does level off a bit when she isn't growing.  I think in general she is hungrier, and can eat more than a lot of kids her age, although I do hear similar stories from other parents.  My dd is healthy, and physically very active with sports, so I think this balances some things.  I did notice from about age 10 on, a big jump in her desire for sweet foods.

 

I know that your situation is different, and you have cause to be worried about weight.  I just wanted to say that we too have experienced the increased appetite.  I also know how quickly food can turn into a battle, and I don't want that at all.  I know that at school dd will eat things I'd rather she didn't-more so in the beginning of the year when she had newfound freedom to make her own choices.  That excitement has worn off a bit, which has slowed the junk food infatuation, but she's still working with her own choices.  A big part has been about having the freedom from parents to make her own choices.  

 

I think it's entirely possible for your dd to need more than you might think she does for dinner.

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#8 of 20 Old 03-05-2011, 11:07 PM
 
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I would suggest that you seek out both a therapist -- to address issues of control/to see if there is an issue and a nutritionist. I haven't a clue as to what a 12 year old might need in terms of calories, so a nutritionist might really be able to tell you whether it's reasonable for her to eat 2x as much as you do at dinner or not.

 

There's also a good book by Weight Watchers called Family Power, which you might find helpful. Do you get exercise together as a family? The book recommends 60 minutes a day for everyone in the family. It also recommends treats daily so you don't feel deprived, and applying the rules to everyone in the house. It sounds like you're doing a lot of this anyway, so that's good.

 

I would limit the junk in the house because it's not got the kind of nutrients that anyone really needs. Because junk usually = highly processed, it's also more easy to gain weight with it. By not buying highly processed foods, you'd also be shopping more sustainably. I can buy pre-made french fries and bake them for dinner or I can buy red potatoes, and roast them with olive oil and garlic, and bake them for dinner. My kids will eat them both and like them. The whole red potatoes are healthier (I keep the skins on), and less processed, so better for the world. [And now is the time that I confess I served frozen fries for dinner because I forgot to tell dh to buy potatoes. bag.gif So, I'm not completely religious about this, but I know that I feel better when I eat less processed stuff.]


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#9 of 20 Old 03-06-2011, 05:50 AM
 
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You said not to worry about being gentle, so I'm going to be direct.  Your daughter is telling you with her actions with food that she is hurting in some other area of her life.  There are feelings she is trying to cope with, and she is using food to do it.  I know because I was very much like that at her age. 

 

My mom had been very overwieght as a child and young woman and did a lot of projecting of her issues onto me by being very controlling with food.  I reacted by sneaking food and using it to rebel against her constant attempts to control what I ate.  It has resulted in a lifetime of food issues that I continue to work to overcome.  It deeply affected our relationship with each other as well.  A therapist with experience in eating issues and the issues of adolescent girl development could be very helpful. 

 

Clearly you love her and want what is best for her.  This is such a crucial time in development for a young girl.  Body image is tied into how she feels about herself in so many ways.  If you are at all able to access counseling for her it can be such a gift.

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#10 of 20 Old 03-06-2011, 09:08 AM
 
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I agree with all the great advise given here, but I also wanted to suggest helping her learn cooking and baking and menu planning.  Treats are more special if you made them yourself to share with others, and I think she would be less likely to hoard them.  My dd always wants others to get to taste something special she baked.  another idea is to give her a shelf in the pantry or fridge (or both) that is just for her so she need not worry that if she doesn't eat it quickly or hide it away she may not get any or get "her share".  being able to see how much "special" foods she has for the week she may make reasonable decisions about how much to have on any one day.  things I include in the "special foods" category are cheese sticks and yogurt.  I also include apples dipped in peanut butter as an acceptable "snack food", it becomes a "special" food if they are fresh apples from the health food store instead of old apples from the root cellar.

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#11 of 20 Old 03-06-2011, 10:03 AM
 
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Originally Posted by pink gal View Post

You said not to worry about being gentle, so I'm going to be direct.  Your daughter is telling you with her actions with food that she is hurting in some other area of her life.  There are feelings she is trying to cope with, and she is using food to do it.  I know because I was very much like that at her age. 

 

My mom had been very overwieght as a child and young woman and did a lot of projecting of her issues onto me by being very controlling with food.  I reacted by sneaking food and using it to rebel against her constant attempts to control what I ate.  It has resulted in a lifetime of food issues that I continue to work to overcome.  It deeply affected our relationship with each other as well.  A therapist with experience in eating issues and the issues of adolescent girl development could be very helpful. 

 

Clearly you love her and want what is best for her.  This is such a crucial time in development for a young girl.  Body image is tied into how she feels about herself in so many ways.  If you are at all able to access counseling for her it can be such a gift.

 

this!  I also struggled a lot with food as a child and was alternately anorexic and bulimic as a teen and through my early 20's.  I see a lot of myself in your daughter from when I struggled with the bulimia.  I binged for a lot of different reasons, for me it was most frequently to deal with emotional pain, the purging process can be very cathartic for a bulimic and I worry that your daughter is heading down that path.  I definitely suggest a therapist, perhaps even one that specializes in eating disorders. 

 

I was talking with a friend recently about how hard it is when you use food as a way to deal with emotions or stress, much how an alcoholic can use alcohol.  The hardest part about being a person who uses food in this context is the fact that you CAN'T just quit eating, your body needs food to live, but at the same time it's like asking an alcoholic to just be a social drinker, it's soooooo hard!  I wish that I had dealt with my issues before they had became so ingrained in me. 

 

I have recently started reading "Breaking Free From Emotional Eating" by Geneen Roth.  It's a GREAT book and has been really eye-opening to me.  It explains a lot about why we binge (or crave certain foods) and what constant dieting does to our bodies and our minds.  Reading it (maybe even together?) may help both of you.

 

Please don't wait on this, your daughter is crying out for help.
 

 


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#12 of 20 Old 03-06-2011, 11:09 AM
 
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I grew up in a family where every single morsel of food put in our mouths was policed.  My sister and I struggle with weight to this day.  We felt forced to sneak and hide food because we never felt full after we ate, but getting an extra cookie or another slice of roast beef was absolutely forbidden.  When she found our wrappings or crumbs, we just got more inventive on places to hide them.  We also never confessed to the missing food due to the lecture that was sure to follow.

 

Your daughter does need lots of calories right now as she goes through puberty.  Lots of girls in the 4th-7th grades are often a little on the chunky side because they are growing.  Most of them are quite svelte as they begin high school.  My daughter weighed the same in the 5th grade as she did in the 9th - but by 9th grade she was 5 inches taller.  Growing is work.

 

Finally, I want to caution you that praising one child for cleaning her plate while chastening another for eating too much will take you nowhere good.

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#13 of 20 Old 03-06-2011, 11:19 AM
 
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I agree with those who suggest a therapist.  

 

I would also suggest taking her for a medical checkup/blood work, there could be something there too.

 

Sneaking food & hiding wrappers is normal.

 

Sneaking food off a plate while another family goes to the bathroom during the meal is NOT normal, nor is it pre-growth spurt eating.  Especially when there is more food sitting there available to eat.

 

160lbs at age 11 is not a pre-puberty weight gain unless she is already very tall(at or above 100% for height).

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#14 of 20 Old 03-07-2011, 11:28 AM
 
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How can consuming 1000 calories and 100 carbs in one meal be not enough for an 11 year old girl?

Depends on what she eats for breakfast and lunch. I'd expect an 11 year old girl to need at least 2000 calories in a day. More if she's more active at all.

 

And carb consumption leads to carb cravings.

 

With a preteen who is sneaking food off her sister's plate, even though you pack her good, healthy, filling lunches, I wouldn't count on her eating them.

 

Note, I agree with all the other posters who say that therapy is called for.  My suggestions were based on what would've helped reduce my own overeating as a preteen.

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#15 of 20 Old 03-08-2011, 12:16 AM
 
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Something you said really struck me  "im thinking of sending her to a therapist"  You dont send kids to a therapist.  Really, the kids dont get sent there to be fixed.   The eating is a symptom of a problem.  Probably a family control problem.  You struggle with weight, you probably continually talk about food, weight, eating etc and your DD hears you.  What she really 'hears' is that she isnt good enough, wont be xyz enough for mom etc.  Going to mc'ds with grandma shouldnt be a huge deal.  From what I'm reading it sounds like there are huge control issues in the family.  I bet if you and DH backed off a bit you would see huge changes.

 

 

 

*you said dont worry about being gentle with the response


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#16 of 20 Old 03-08-2011, 08:50 AM
 
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One of the things I didn't see mentioned at all is what you all do physically. That's also important, especially if you are concerned about her weight.

 

But I have to agree that I can easily see a child approaching puberty requiring a higher caloric intake than one might otherwise expect. My daughter (who, granted, is an athlete) has eaten more than her brother and I combined for years. The amount of food she can consume never fails to amaze me. A typical day for her includes: bagel/cream cheese for breakfast, 1/3-1/2 a box of cold cereal to munch on on the bus, a sandwich (ham/turkey & cheese or PB) for a "second breakfast" during first block, pasta for lunch (like... a half box (dry) of whatever pasta I have in the house), fruit for the bus ride home (several bananas/apples/peaches/tons of grapes), cheese and crackers when she gets home (after her run). Then there's dinner, which is often some sort of protein (I always make extra for her), veggies, a starch. Fruit for dessert. And she'll usually have something mid-evening for a snack. The child is hungry, and eats almost constantly.

 

Your daughter's weight gain may also have to do with approaching puberty. What *I* would likely do is schedule an appointment with her doctor to see if there is something physical going on - and ask him/her to speak with your daughter about her diet and why she's sneaking food. Then I'd talk to him/her about how to help her, and whether a therapist is a good idea. And definitely about an exercise program. With the weather getting nice, it's an excellent time for the two of you to start a walking/biking regimen.

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#17 of 20 Old 03-08-2011, 10:18 AM
 
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I've been very overweight in my life (I'm a Weight watchers lifetime member) and my DH is still carrying around a lot of extra weight. One of my DDs is chubby. May take my sound a little harsh, but I'm talking about my own family here and wondering if yours is similar.

 

1. Both parents have problems with food and weight. All of that food that your DD is sneaking, which is complete crap, was brought, paid for, and put away by the adults. To feel that you guys must have it there for you but that she shouldn't be eating it is just a control thing. Start with yourselves, not your kid. If you need to drag your DH into marriage counseling so that he understands that having chips and candy in the house is bad for his child, do so. If you are trying to loose weight and want that stuff around, then you are just lying to yourself.

 

2. You don't have any idea how much food she actually needs. My DD did WW for a while with me, and the amount of food she could eat every day was HUGE. Teens are growing and as such, if they are making even moderately healthy choices, the quantity of food is staggering. It would make any adult again weight, and yet they can still lose. Your assumption that she should be eating LESS than you is way, way off. She needs to be eating more.

 

3. Emotional eating is something you (and may be dad) have modeled for her, and that she is most likely doing. How is the rest of her life? Is she happy? Is she bored? Is homeschooling working?  Overeating can be an outward sign that something fundemental is off in her life. The food isn't the problem, it's just them symptom of the problem. (Over all, my kids eat healthier now that they attend school than they did homeschooling because they eat on a regular schedule instead of grazing, and because they no longer boredom eat).

 

4. I agree with the others that therapy is in order. Something is wrong.

 

5. I also think you need to find a way that she can enjoy being active, which will be tricky at her age and weight. You could start by being active as a family -- going for bike rides, going hiking, etc.


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#18 of 20 Old 03-09-2011, 10:30 AM
 
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Originally Posted by pink gal View Post

You said not to worry about being gentle, so I'm going to be direct.  Your daughter is telling you with her actions with food that she is hurting in some other area of her life.  There are feelings she is trying to cope with, and she is using food to do it.  I know because I was very much like that at her age. 

 

My mom had been very overwieght as a child and young woman and did a lot of projecting of her issues onto me by being very controlling with food.  I reacted by sneaking food and using it to rebel against her constant attempts to control what I ate.  It has resulted in a lifetime of food issues that I continue to work to overcome.  It deeply affected our relationship with each other as well.  A therapist with experience in eating issues and the issues of adolescent girl development could be very helpful. 

 

Clearly you love her and want what is best for her.  This is such a crucial time in development for a young girl.  Body image is tied into how she feels about herself in so many ways.  If you are at all able to access counseling for her it can be such a gift.


^ This.  Totally.

 

My mom was overweight as a child, not obese, but not rail thin like her peers.  It had a HUGE influence on the way she parented me and my sister.  Lucky for me, I was able to escape before too much damage was done.  My sister was not.  She was built differently than me, she was naturally stockier.  Once she hit pre-teen age, she began to basically eat her feelings.  She snuck food from the cupboards when my mom wasn't looking.  She was emotionally starved and met those needs physically.  My mom was super strict about the food she was eating and being on low-fat diets etc (it was the 90's when this and vegetarianism hit pop culture).  It made my sister withdraw even further.  I think you need to take a good hard look at what you're projecting out there as far as eating habits and body image.  You might be surprised at what you find. 

 


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#19 of 20 Old 03-09-2011, 12:17 PM
 
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I would bet a lot of money that she has blood sugar issues...most likely hyperinsulinemia which causes ravenous hunger.  I've had it all my life and the only thing that helps is a low carb diet.  It's not low blood sugar that causes the problem, it's blood sugar that plummets back down very quickly after carbs are ingested.    

 

If she has hyperinsulinemia, an Atkins-type diet will help her tremendously... Please, if you've only heard that Atkins is a quacky, fad diet that advocates eating nothing but meat, please pick up a copy of the book (the 1982 version is best, Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution) and judge for yourself...Note:  The Atkins products (bars, shakes, etc.) are not really food and are not something that Dr. Atkins would have ever endorsed.   

 

Dr. Schwarzbein, Drs. Eades, Dr. Kurt Harris, Mark Sisson, Dr. Groves, Gary Taubes and many others espouse similar low-carb programs that will control blood sugar.

 

I blamed my overeating on emotional issues, laziness, and lack of willpower for most of my life.  I spent thousands of dollars on gimicky weight loss programs.  Now that I've discovered low carb eating I've lost 55 pounds and I feel like a new person.  

 

An excellent introductory resource is Gary Taubes book "Why we get fat and what to do about it".  I think that insulin issues are at the root of the obesity epidemic. 

 

Very often, puberty can trigger insulin issues (insulin is a hormone, afterall)... Good luck!  I feel for your daughter...I can remember the shame of hoarding food to deal with my relentless hunger...

 

eta:  An endocrinologist can test for hyperinsulinemia...

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Similarly to JellyMomma, I'd look into low glycemic index foods.  Foods that don't spike the blood sugar help break the eating cycle.  I read this book ages ago and it makes a ton of sense: http://www.amazon.com/Good-Calorie-Diet-Harperspotlight/dp/006109403X  You can also just google glycemic index and get an idea of which foods have high ones and which foods have low ones.  Then try to stock more of the low ones in the house and be more moderate with the high ones.  It helps to eat smaller amounts of the high glycemic index foods after larger amounts of the low ones so one doesn't have completely do without favorite foods.

 

The great thing is that it is a way of eating that is good for everyone.  Certain foods that have traditionally been diet foods because they are low fat can be particularly bad.  For example, pretzels spike the blood sugar more than straight white sugar.  Also, certain food additives cue the body to overeat.  Check labels for things like monosodium glutamate or "flavor enhancers" and avoid those foods.


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