Posted by: Ask Arden | February 14, 2010

Childhood Obesity:Mom minding her daughter’s eating habits

As a psychotherapist and an Eating Disorder Specialist I have worked with many families struggling with getting a handle on their weight. My training at Holy Name Hospital while working with the morbidly obese in a series of fifteen support group sessions gave me invaluable insight into their struggles with food and resistance to any form of exercise or movement for that matter. My group was very verbal, some were funny and self-effacing, others were incredibly frustrated and angry with themselves. All so much wanted to be helped.

After the 15 sessions I was given the green light to see them privately, if they choose to. So for the next two years, yes I know that’s a long time, we continued to meet. Yes, they lost a great deal of weight, as they shed a tremendous amount of emotional blockage that had gotten in their way for most of their lives. I was their biggest cheerleader. This was back in 1981 way before the Biggest Loser, the popular TV weight loss show.

To get an idea of how complicated and difficult it is to move in a direction of health and wellness when you have used food as a drug just listen to one of my Mom’s in my private practice talk about her daughter 14-year-old daughter Emma.

Emma sits by the TV morning, noon and night when she is not in school on the weekends. The only time she does move is when she goes on-line to IM her friends. She snacks probably during the week, but I am working. I can see her pattern on the weekend. I don’t know what to do. She must be at least 40 pounds over weight. Her pediatrician is very concerned since diabetes runs in my family. I am very worried as well.

Here you can see a few things. Mom is very concerned about the health of her daughter. She observes her daughter in action on the weekend and imagines she is doing the same after school as well. She is feeling at a loss. Mom is obese as well and is Dad.

The tough thing here is we have to start from the top with Mom. Mom either does the cooking or brings in fast food after work. The great thing here is that Mom is willing to make small changes. She begins to understand that her family will eat differently if she presents more healthy choices.

Over the course of 6 months she introduces more whole grains, fruits, and plant-based veggies, fish and chicken. She is making a concerted effort to eliminate all or most white starchy foods. She is baking, broiling, steaming and stewing rather than frying. Desserts are more balanced now. The family loves their sweets but now it’s more of a treat, not a regular thing. Fruits have replaced packed sweets and some home-baked goodies have been modified as well.

Another shift is portion size of prepared meals. She is using smaller plates because they all belonged to the clean your plate club. This is working well for the family.

Lastly and the hardest for this family and Mom in particular was “finding time” for exercise. Mom absolutely “hated” any kind of exercise and set the tone for Emma, her husband and younger 12-year-old daughter as well. The work with Mom focused on turning the hate into something that was beneficial for her family. She agreed that walking, doing the treadmill and meditation was a first step that she and her family could accomplish.

She began to see that she needed to put some time limits on the TV, video, computer, media intake for her daughter and family. Once instituted, movement and meditation substituted for half of the 7 plus hours a day of what she began to call as “media addiction.”

Mom started to feel much more pro-active and could see her family responding positively. Over the course of the year the family combined weight drop was about 100 pounds. She and her famiy were feeling much healthier in mind, body and spirit. They have become a much more energetic group. No longer is she concerned about Emma and the theat of diabetes. Emma is doing great. She has realized how much power she has in positively orchestrating change in her family and in herself.

You too can help facilitate this for your family. I know you can. I have faith in you Mom. Check out Saturday February 13, 2010 article online: Food for thought, Coping with and preventing childhood obesity as an emotionally fraught topic.

Blessings from Ask Arden



  1. Take a look at my latest posting for Moms on Childhood Obesity, and get some incite and tips for your daughter and the family.
    Take a peek at one very inspiring story as well.
    LOL and Blessings,

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