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How do I help an adult daughter with a weight problem?

My daughter is 23 years old. I noticed she had problems with overeating when she was in middle school, but her major weight gain has been during her college years and since she graduated. I would estimate she has put on 50+ pounds in recent years. I am at a loss as to how I might help her and what I should and should not say. I notice she is isolating herself a bit more also. I am so concerned about her, but sdhe is very defensive in general and does not seem to want to reach out.
17 Responses
750946 tn?1270291732
Hey!...I'm not sure what you can do to help her..except make healthy food at home...

Especially since she's defensive and an adult...it's not something you can "sit down and talk about"...she's gonna think everyone is against her...

My mother and I don't get along at all....I'm a 21 yr old..and i'll tell u some advice on WHAT NOT TO DO with your daughters situation:
1. Don't yell at her
2. Don't compare her to her skinny friends
3. Don't buy her clothes...she'll feel like ur indirectly attacking her about her weight
4. Don't nag her about her weight and go on forever bout it...if u tell her once..she'll get the point...

My dad is very subtle about telling me to lose weight...and he does it in a good way:
1. One time I put ALOT of sugar in my coffee...and he told me not to...only because that much sugar can lead to diabetes...

A few things I would recommend:
1. You can't do anything about it anymore....it's something she has to decide to change for herself...you can't talk to her about it..because it would make her grow further apart form you (that's what happened with my mom n me)
2. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I'm not sure how your diet is or anything...but be an example of how you want your daughter to live...talk the talk only when you can walk the walk...
3. I would do very subtle things...like watch Biggest Loser together...(that show is motivating for ANYONE that is overweight)....or mention how junk food makes YOU feel...not attack her bout her eating junk food...
4. When it comes to family activities or whatever....do something outdoors...
like if your going to an Amusement park or the fair...then (without her even knowing)..walk a few more circles around the park without even tellin her..most likely she wont even notice that she was walking that long...

There are so many things you can do without even letting her know...
the main thing is....to talk to her like you love her..whether she was fat or skinny...how would u talk to her?...
don't let her weight be a conversation topic..that would kill her inside...
great suggestions.... my daughter lives with her boyfriend.  She began gaining weight since college.  Now she probably has over 50lbs to lose.  It breaks my heart when I see her   I've learned not to say anything.  However, it's hard if she wearing a bikini and shouldn't be.  Wore a very nice vera wang long dress to a family wedding but it was backless -- it was not flattering at all.  What do you do or can you say if she's wearing something that just is inappropriate for her size.  not trashing just not flattering.  I'm embarrassed for her.  Any suggestions.  You seem to have a lot of insight.  
I don't know, but this is my daughter as well and she just doesn't see it, or she doesn't care.  She's almost 20, so I finally felt I could carefully mention it (from the health perspective).  She literally doesn't get it.  Kids are growing up today being constantly told that nobody should judge anyone and they are free to be whatever they want wherever they want.  Unfortunately, real life is not like that.  People do make assumptions based on your appearance....right or wrong, it happens.  She's also so bad at clothing choices...tries to wear things that her thinner friends wear.  Looks horrible.  To add to that, she just isn't good at grooming.  She showers frequently, but doesn't do a good job with hair.  Obsessed with makeup, and her face looks good when takes the time to do it, but so often doesn't even bother (and doesn't care that she's out in public looking completely unkempt).  It's so sad.  The next 5+ years should be the best she will ever look.  Her metabolism (which is fine btw, there are no genetics working against her, it's pure lack of exercise and poor eating) will not get better from this point.  In 20 years, she will be very obese.  She's in college so I can't control food and sugary drinks when she's as school, and it's so hard at home because I have two other children (boys - younger than her - and thin).  I can empty the house of anything carb or sugar, but then I'm punishing them for her inability to stop eating and start exercising.  I feel badly, too, because people are always commenting about how attractive my boys are (they are) and it's hard to offer the compliment for her, so they don't.  I love her so much and want her to be the bring her best, be her best and feel her best, and she can't and won't.  Her major in college is in the (back-end) of the entertainment industry.  Entertainment is all about appearance.  I fear that she won't even get past a first job interview.  It's all so sad and I am at a loss as to what to do.
The problem is, she's an adult.  It's a story as old as time for a girl to have a disapproving mother when it comes to her grooming, looks, weight, etc.  I would allow her to manifest into who SHE wants to be and not go down the road of being disappointed in her appearance.  Looks are just one aspect to someone.  And I almost promise you, the more you judge her by her weight and appearance, the more weight she'll pack on.  That's how it works.  Surface approval from the world is only motivating to some people.  

I know you care but also realize you are being hurtful to her.  good luck
How do you know it's not metabolism?  Not all kids in a family inherit the immediate family's characteristics.  In my family, my brother and I are about normal weight when things are going right, but my sister was morbidly obese.  Yes, she had very bad habits, but so do I and so does my brother.  She died young of a blood clot, something unseen in our family.  Who knows where that came from?  Another thing, everyone in my family pretty much takes the sun well and tans easily, but my brother came out with red hair and extremely fair skin.  So it's possible there is something going on neither your daughter or you know about, such as a thyroid problem.  It's possible there's nothing like that, but it is a possibility.  As for weight, it is important -- it doesn't necessarily shorten life span but it does come with increased risk of many diseases that can make life a lot less pleasant as age progresses.  But the emphasis on appearance, I'm in complete agreement with Specialmom.  And here's reality, if that's the thing of it -- someone with a weight problem doesn't get any thinner by covering up her or his body.  It's not like nobody knows.  Who one wears their hair and dresses is one of the most irrelevant things on this Earth, and yes, people will judge, but not everyone will.  And in the entertainment industry, there are a lot of very famous and incredibly successful overweight people in it in all facets of the industry -- fat singers, fat actors, fat directors, making tons of money doing what they like to do.  You're right, again, some people judge.  Many don't.
579258 tn?1250652943
Believe the answer above is most likely the truth of the situation ... your daughter must recognize and want to change the situation in order receive the assistance she needs.  

I always found supportive cooking a great motivator .. like getting a lower calorie cookbook and selecting recipes together and perhaps asking her .. I'm trying to decide between chicken or beef or lasagna .. here's the 3 recipes (Pages tagged) ... what do you think?  

Totally agree you should talk about you and not her .. always let her know you love her and not talk of her size.  It can be devastating.  

You can post some things that help YOU ... on the refrigerator .. but explain it is for YOU!  She'll get curious and read it.  Print something off MedHelp .. try my before and after picture .. along with my favorite Mandela quote ... "Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” Actually, who are you not to be?"

or .. my very favorite poem that helped me make positive choices ...

ONE evening, and old Cherokee told his grandson about the eternal battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My boy, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.”

“One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, tolerance, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The boy thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee replied, “The one you feed.”

You can even print out your Food Diary and put on the side of the refrigerator .. along with your exercise and weight tracker information.  

Tell her when you go to the park and see if she'd like to go with you and walk and talk .. or play frisbee ... or ask her what she'd like to do for "fun" ... like paddle boating ... and then go do it with her ... without any mention of weight and only positive thoughts .. like .. it is so nice to have you and I love us doing things together.

Of course, if she's ever interested .. we're all here to provide her with love and support.

Very best wishes .. we all have to walk our own paths ... but those we meet on that path can change our lives.

Oh .. and posting daily positive thoughts help too .. we'll be doing that in the community very soon.

Thanks for the question and please stay involved yourself .. there is much to learn and share here.
649848 tn?1534637300
I agree that there's not much you can do since she's an adult and you can't hardly "force" her to change anything.  

She will have to come to a point, where she WANTS to lose weight for herself, whether it be for health reasons or to raise her self-esteem.  

I also agree that it will do no good to chide her about her weight; that will only make matters worse and she may eventually come to resent you for making her feel even worse than she might already feel about it.  

Ranae's idea of doing things for yourself, whether it be healthy eating, exercise, etc may be enough to "nudge" her into getting started with a weight loss plan.  I'd be sure to ease into it gradually though.  

Good luck and hope you'll stay with us.
Avatar universal
I am the father of my only child 24 year old daughter, my lovely and beautiful daughter who graduated from one of the top Ivy League universities and got her master's degree recently, I love her so much and  I never stop to express to her, to our family member and friends (including my golf buddies) that how proud I am, and I encouraged her and supported her all the way from under graduate school to now she successfully received her master's degree with honor. Academically, she is the dream of all parents; she will have a bright future to purse her career. However, physically she somehow developed into certain degree of obesity at least about 30-40 Lbs over starting from her sophomore year in the college. As she was quite resented any slight suggestion even with minor mentioning about  “size, body”,  I have been watching over my mouth very carefully, particularly after she started her graduate school when I even thought about it, it became a sensitive taboo subject between us as I know how easily it can offend her.  From deep of my heart, I know we love each other so much as father and daughter relationship. I have several concerns: 1, it is about the health issue as more weight she puts on it can easily develop into other health issue for a young lady like her, 2, it may somehow prevent her to get better employment as certain “image sensitive” employers (she is in the process of getting active interviews with several big international firms suitable for her study and profession now)? 3, I don’t think she has a steady boy friend so far (not like when she was in the high school – a very serious boy friend relationship as the most parents may have experienced), besides the point she has been very preoccupied with her graduate school, on the other hand, I just suspect that she may have certain low esteem in dealing with a relationship? Having all said, I was thinking to seek a professional consultant till I found this forum. I am very impressed the suggestions and opinions listed here, not to mention we all share some degree of the same experience with our daughter. For all the best,  I will be grateful to get your thoughts.  l
649848 tn?1534637300
I've been trying to figure out how best to answer your questions and I'm still not absolutely certain, but maybe we can work through it together.

As was noted above, when an adult doesn't want to lose weight, there really isn't a whole lot anyone can do to force them into to it.

All of the points you made about weight causing health issues, possibly preventing her from getting the job or man of her dreams are valid.  I can even add one  more... if she were to get the man of her dreams, her weight can prevent her from getting pregnant and having the family of her dreams.

Now, I'm going to ask some questions, so please bear with me, because they could all have some relevance.

Does your daughter "mind" her weight?  Does she indicate in any way, that she wants to lose weight or that she's uncomfortable with her weight or does she seem to be happy with it?  If she's happy with herself and has all the self confidence she needs to make it in this world, there isn't going to be much you can do, unless you can figure out a way to work in conversations about your own health and ways to make it better, particularly if you could stand to lose some weight, yourself; or if you need to get more exercise or whatever the case may be, and see if she'd be willing to join you.

Does she live with you and eat at your table?  Do you provide her food and cook her meals?  If you provide the food and cook the meals, set the example and provide and cook healthy wholesome food, in portions that will allow her to lose weight and she may be so busy with life that she may not even realize what's happening - you can always hope.  You can tell her that YOU need to eat healthier, so this is the food you are providing and cooking, from now on.

You can try to get her to go on walks with you or whatever activities the 2 of you might enjoy together.

Last, but certainly, not least... Is it possible that your daughter has a medical issue that could cause weight gain/inability to lose weight?  There are several, but the most obvious that comes to mind is hypothyroidism.  The thyroid gland controls metabolism, heart rate, digestion, body temperature and other bodily functions.  When the thyroid doesn't work properly, metabolism is sluggish and weight can pile on, literally, overnight.  A hypothyroid person is often cold when others aren't; they're often fatigued, constipated, with dry skin, hair loss, etc.  Some simple blood tests can confirm/rule out a malfunctioning thyroid. The tests she needs are TSH, Free T3 and Free T4.  

There are some other conditions that can also cause weight gain/inability to lose that includes insulin resistance and PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome).  You could tell her that you read an article about these things and how common they are in young women (hypothyroidism, insulin resistance and PCOS really are common).  

I'd recommend that you find a way to get her in for a complete physical - maybe you could suggest that she's looking tired lately and it's time for a check up.  Once she's in the doctor's office you can bet your boots the doctor is going to talk to her about her weight!!!
Avatar universal
I'm going through this now.  My daughter was never a small girl but when she lived home and she struggled with her weight I would take her to the doctor, we joined weight watchers together, etc.  Also in high school she was very athletic.  She went to college and developed bad eating habits and I'm sure a lot of partying.  She put on a lot of weight then.  Now she is 23. She's a teacher and works long hrs.  She moved out of our house about year ago and now  lives closer to her work.  I was hoping this would help with her quality of life so she would have more time to exercise and take care of herself.  She lives about an hr away from us so we see her about once a month.  Every time I see her, she looks like she gained even more weight.  She seems to always wear  jogging pants and a big shirt.  I can't say anything but I'm sure my expression speaks for itself.  She'll even ask me why am I glaring at her.  She wears no  make up and doesn't take pride in her appearance like she use to.  She is such a pretty young woman too.  She has a serious boyfriend so I'm not sure she's just comfortable with the relationship or something isn't right.  For Christmas I gave her a membership for yoga classes which she asked for.  She never goes because of her long work  hrs.  Sometimes I wish her and her boyfriend would break up because I know she would get back into shape and take pride in her appearance.    I've spoken to a therapist and she told me not to say anything and not to dwell on it.  I get obsessed about it because she's my only child and I hate to see her like this.  I don't like the person she's become and all I can do now is pray for her.  I have to prepare myself when I see her so I don't react to her appearance.  I just want her to be healthy, safe and happy.  All I can do is continue to pray for her and me too!  
I am experiencing exactly what you are with my 25 year old beautiful daughter who has gained 20-30 lbs since college, it breaks my heart! There has got to be a way to get through!
I now pay for my daughter's gym membership, try not to say anything or show any reaction when i see her. And I PRAY A LOT.  Since I pay for the gym membership I thinking of reaching out to them to see if they can encourage her to see  a nutritionist and get more sessions with the personal trainer.  I;m just afraid that she will find out that I got involved.  That will be a major problem between my daughter and me.  I feel hopeless
I'm experiencing the same thing with my 19 year old daughter.  She is a sophomore in college and has put on a lot of weight since high school.  She seems comfortable with herself so I don't feel like I should say anything.  I would love to talk to others going through the same thing for advise.
It's still a work in progress.  I haven't seen a change in her appearance.  This is after paying for a very expensive gym and personal trainer.  These are gifts that she had asked for and we sacrifice to give it to her.  I think she is trying but not fully committed.  It makes me crazy because I'm embarrassed of her and for her. She's probably a size 14 and wears a bikini.  I WANT and feel I NEED to say something but can't.   I see a therapist to help me accept and support her. It's not easy.  I would like to talk to you.  I don't go on this website a lot but can make other arrangements to do so.  I feel you pain.  
I will say, I'm glad I came to this site as I don't feel so alone in this for me a real crisis, I love my daughter so much and it kills me to see her so defeated and I do dwell on her weight. It's as if all this is happening to me as I'm very protective of her, she is 19 and a wonderful person and it breaks my heart, I wish she could see things through my eyes, I love her so.
I understand your position.  I'm living too and have been for a long time.   I really try not to say anything but sometimes the look on my face says it all.  I don't pay for the gym any longer.  Realized that I resented it.  I was paying a lot of money and she didn't use it and the PT was a waste of $ too.  She was going to a wedding recently and I couldn't believe she was wearing this dress that was not flattering.  she's now 26 years old and I still try to take control.  I got her to join this personalized shopping service (stitch fix) and so I sent a box to her that consisted of clothes for that weekend and upcoming occasions.   However, I spent  again a lot of money and the clothing didn't fit her well.  She wore them anyway.  I have to stop trying and let her find her own style, etc.   I'm mad at myself for not being a better role model, teach her more about style, etc.  In my heart, I know I did my best but somewhere I failed.  
I beat myself up all the time.  I pray and beg God to help her, to help me.  I'm learning as I go, I still see a therapist and it does help.   It shouldn't be this hard.  I kind of envy mom's that can go shopping with their daughters and don't have to walk on egg shells with their daughters.   It's not a good situation.   Sometimes I think something is wrong with me.  However, when I go on this site, I realize I'm not the only mom that just wants the best for our daughters.  we're not asking for much.   I want the best for her and would give up everything for that.  I trust that things will change and this to will pass.  In the meantime, I'm trying to be loving, supportive, kind and the best mom that I can be.   Please feel free to reach out to me at ***@****. anytime if you want to chat personally.  
When a child reaches 26 yrs old, it's no longer up to us to decide what they should/need to wear and how they should look.  It's entirely up to them and it doesn't really matter whether we like it or not.   We grew up in a different era and we learned to wear different styles from what young people wear today.

My own daughter has become quite overweight (again) and she loves to wear the leggings that show every bump and lump in her overweight body... it's not attractive to me, but she likes it; she's comfortable with it, so I just be quiet about it.  I'd rather let her wear what she wants than to ruin our relationship by demanding that she dress the way *I* think she should.  

I was a good role model for her as far as dress, weight, etc is concerned; I'm just a different person than she is and my tastes are different.  I know my daughter doesn't choose to be overweight... she has a medical condition that prevents her from exercising a lot and she takes medications for which weight gain is a side effect.  Nobody would know that if they don't know her, but that's life.  Of course, it doesn't help that she chooses to drink a lot of Mountain Dew and eat sugary foods that not only increase weight but also increase inflammation that makes her illness worse.  I've tried to discuss it with her and she chooses not to change her lifestyle... I can't force her... She's 43 yrs old so it's no longer my responsibility.  I'll keep my relationship with her and perhaps someday she'll seek my advice again.  If I alienate her, there's no chance she will ever seek my help or advice.
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649848 tn?1534637300
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