DEAR HARRIETTE: My 14-year-old daughter has recently gained a lot of weight and does not fit into her clothes. She has developed bad eating habits and does not get enough physical activity. I want to intervene because I am scared that this will become out of control, and it is really unhealthy. Every time I bring up topics like food and health, it always turns into an argument, and she runs out of the room in tears. How do I confront her about this nicely? How do I get her to want to be fit and eat right? I feel like the more I bug her about it, the more she wants to eat and go against everything I say. -- Concerned Parent, Austin, Texas
DEAR CONCERNED PARENT: Start with a visit to the pediatrician. Call the doctor in advance and express your concerns. Ask the doctor to do a thorough exam and give your daughter advice, should he deem it necessary.
The doctor may recommend that you get a therapist for your daughter to help identify what triggered her weight gain and lethargy. Though your daughter may not talk to you, a professional may be able to engage her.
Next, I suggest that you change your language, which will change your thinking. Consider your communication with your daughter as a conversation, rather than a confrontation. No one wants to be confronted, so the natural reaction is rejection. Engage your daughter in conversation. Learn about how she's managing in school, how she's getting along with her friends -- generally, what's going on in her life. Listen for negative influences that may be of concern.
Finally, live the way you want your daughter to live. Exercise regularly and invite her to join you. Only bring healthy foods and snacks into your home. Show her what healthy living is.