Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do kids emotionally eat too?

Over the weekend, I spent a little more time with Jack's teenage son. We'll call him Carbon Copy (CC) because he is just like his dad.

I adore this kid. He cheered me on during my triathlon and was totally inspired. He's a sweet, affectionate, little gentleman who does really well in school and treats me very respectfully. Gentleman Jack has done a great job.

Since Jack was at a fishing tournament over the weekend, CC and I went to breakfast together on Saturday morning. I have noticed, from time to time, that Jack will get on to CC for eating too much. He's the typical teen boy that wants to play video games or read books. When he's bored, he eats. And that boy can eat!

So, we're at breakfast and I'm marveling about how much he can eat.

"Please don't pick on me about how much I eat," he pleads with me, "My daddy does that enough already. I'm fat. I know it. I don't care."

Now for the record, this kid is not fat AT ALL. And the only reason GJ says these things is because CC doesn't get out and do any form of exercise to balance out his food intake.

Then again, Jack has also told me that he thinks CC may be feeling a deep sense of pain about his mother. He wonders where this pain will manifest.

Food perhaps?


I worry enough with having two daughters.

I am a label reader. I try to put healthy foods in our bodies at least most of the time.

I don't pick on my girls about food. I try to get them to balance though. Did they have a vegetable with lunch? If they've eaten nothing but fruit, then no juice til tomorrow. How much water have you consumed today?

I try to teach them to eat like it took me YEARS to learn. One simple word:


I eat whatever I want but I try to maintain balance. I try to eat smaller portions. I try to exercise.

I had a horrible metabolism for many years from yo-yo dieting so I feel fortunate, at nearly 40, to have a great metabolism.

But most often, people and children eat for emotional problems. My concern also, as a parent, is that if I focus too much on food, will it become an issue later on?

I also think, though the focus is mostly on girls, that boys can emotionally eat as well. Or have problems with body issues and eating disorders. If that is true, this is the perfect case for it to happen. CC is so sensitive... I could imagine him falling into this.


"I'm not going to pick on you about how much you eat," I told CC, "You can eat whatever you want. And you ARE NOT FAT. The only reason your dad says anything to you is not because he's worried about you being fat. He's worried about you being healthy. Exercise will help you to stay strong so you don't get sick so much."

"I am not doing a triathlon," he grumbles.

"Ha! Sweetie, you do whatever you want to do that will keep you active. Your dad says you're good at all kinds of sports!"

I dropped it at that.

Later that night, CC talked my ear off about how he went to the basketball court and shot hoops for an hour. He was so proud that he would challenge himself to certain goals of how many he could shoot or from how far. He is exceptional at whatever sport he puts his mind too. Gentleman Jack was the same way.

As he followed me around the house excitedly talking, I high-fived him and encouraged him to keep it up.

GJ was glowing.

"I'm so glad he opened up to you," GJ said, "He just needs encouragement from someone other than me, I guess."

I hope the little I gave helped. I really dig that kid.


  1. You're in a great position to help CC, I think, as someone who is a little bit on the outside, a little more distanced from things. Sometimes kids can have more respect for somone like that, you know?

    With my own history of eating disorders it's definitely something that I worry about in terms of my own girls. I think that the best thing that we can do is provide a healthy and balanced example to our kids. My girls have never heard me talk about "calories", or losing weight, or anything negative about my body (even if I was feeling it). They know that there are certain foods that we call "sometimes foods" because there is not enough nutrition in them to keep our bodies working well. They understand that exercise is important to keep our bodies working well and to keep us healthy.

    Instilling healthy attitudes about food and weight is a life long process, I think. Good for you for being a positive influence in CC's life. :)

  2. I do think kids can be motional eaters. My 3rd daughter (the youngest of my 3 w/my ex husband) has had the toughest time emotionally since her father and I split. She's had many issues over the years and among them is poor impulse control and overeating. She's the only one of my four kids with a weight issue and I know it is directly related to her emotioanl issues. Its tough as a parent to see your child hurting and acting out in ways that hurt themselves, especially ones that effect their health and perpetuate their emotional problems. To help her I try not to focus on the food but talk about her feelings that make her want to "fill herself up".

    I'm sure CC appreciated your support and encouragement.

  3. I think it's great you can be a female figure in this boy's life. Boys (and men) need women! (Just as girls and women need men)

    One thing that might get him exercising more is to play a youth sport like soccer, basketball, or lacrosse, Even better if Rascal can volunteer to coach. Kids love it when their parent gets involved.

    (Also, this is minor, but I think saying he's "typical" for reading and playing video games and not exercising sort of reinforces an untrue stereotype about preteens, and gives him and everyone permission to let him sit around doing those things.)

    As for healthy eating - I put good food on the table and that's what my kids have to eat. I don't buy sodas or snacks. We have ice cream, but it's a dessert after dinner, only if they ate a healthy meal.

    I think you can have a huge impact on this kid. Great that you are bringing your healthy lifestyle his way, and showing him it can be fun. Like you said, he just needs to pick the thing that resonates with him.

  4. This is something I battle with Cameron! There was a stage last year where we stopped buying anything that he liked just to stop him eating and eating :(

    We did explain to him that it was about being HEALTHY and not about being fat.

    We now walk alot more and he does alot more sport at school!

    Its a fine line cos you dont want them to have an unhealthy relationship with food but you also dont want them being obese!

  5. Sounds like you're a pretty good influence in that boys life! Good for both of you, I would think!


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