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daughter gaining weight at college

mom3939mom3939 Posts: 56Registered User Junior Member
edited February 2011 in Parents Forum
My daughter's first year at college, she spent coming home every weekend to be with her boyfriend. This 2 year relationship ended at the end of freshman year (should have ended way before this). Now she is a sophomore and spending all of her time at school. She seems very happy, has tough classes but enjoys them and has lots of friends. She has not been in another relationship since then. She has always cared very much about her appearance, and has always been very fit. Since sophomore year started though she has put on a great deal of weight. I saw it happening each time I saw her all through the semester but did not say anything as it is a sensitive issue. When she was home for the semester break she talked to me about it and how incredibly upset she was about how much she had gained. She really wanted to change that. Over break she was very careful in her diet and worked out regularly. But now that she is back at school she reversed the weight she had lost over break. I don't feel like I should bring it up unless she does as she would get super upset.Otherwise she seems very happy. What should I do? Should I just let her figure it out and stop worrying about it?
Post edited by mom3939 on
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Replies to: daughter gaining weight at college

  • mdcisspmdcissp Posts: 2,494Registered User Senior Member
    If your daughter is at a university where kids ride bikes, I suggest you buy your daughter a bike to ride to classes and not mention anything about weight gain. The goal is to find a solution. You might also want to mail very healthy, low calorie snacks (100 calorie microwave popcorn, etc., tea bags, Pellegrino water mailed via Amazon, etc.). When your daughter finds a new potential boy friend, she will be more motivated to lose weight.
  • teenage_clicheteenage_cliche Posts: 3,522Registered User Senior Member
    I usually don't respond in the Parents Forum, but I was in your daughter's position my senior year of high school (no boyfriend for the first time in a while, lots of stress, etc).

    Ultimately, she has to push herself to make positive changes in her life, especially now that she's no longer living at home and you have no control over her daily choices, including diet and exercise. But I think you can, and should, remind her what should be motivating her to make healthy lifestyle choices. For example, my parents reminded me regularly that there's a lot of diabetes in my family, and that my being overweight and unhealthy were only adding to the likelihood that I'd develop it as well. If she would be at all motivated by health concerns, you should bring that up with her.

    The only other things you can do, I think, that would really be beneficial would be to open her up to all the possibilities. You know your daughter well - what sorts of physical activities has she enjoyed and she would be likely to stick with? Would she stick with something more if she had a gym buddy or played on a team? Is she more outdoorsy, and could she research hiking trails in the area, for example? Is she eating poorly because she's eating out regularly? Are there healthier food options on campus? There's a whole world of food and fitness possibilities, and I think that your reminding her of that and of what she might enjoy trying would be a good step on your part that didn't come off too much on the offensive.

    Also, I believe that if her focus on her body has only historically been to attract guys, that's a mindset in and of itself that should be changed. She needs to come to see her body as something to be careful with because it's hers, because of matters of health, etc, not because of external appreciation.
  • BayBay Posts: 10,355Registered User Senior Member
    I don't think there is anything you can do about it unless she asks you for help.

    I respectfully disagree with mdcissp's suggestions, however. Walking is better exercise than riding a bike, and avoiding snack foods altogether is important, and getting out of the habit of putting food/drinks into your mouth between meals, regardless of caloric content, can help a lot.

    Does your D have a meal-plan? Do you give her an allowance for food and clothing? If so, one approach you might try is severely limiting her allowance (under the guise of financial woes), so that she will not be able to buy snacks and outside meals, and she will become cognizant of the fact that she can't afford new jeans if she outgrows the ones she is in.

    It may be too late for this year, but if she is sharing a dorm room next year, you can also decline to help finance a refrigerator, microwave and other in-room food preparation devices, that only encourage eating outside of meal times.
  • shopsgal417shopsgal417 Posts: 51Registered User Junior Member
    I'm in a similar situation that your daughter is in. I think that her major problems are stress from school and a lack of exercise. She should try to walk more around campus or find an activity that she enjoys (dance, etc.). She should keep less snacks in her dorm, and what helps me is keeping busy so I don't think about eating. I think you should be straightforward with her and voice your concerns about her weight as soon as you see a negative change. My mother always tells me the truth about myself, and it helps me begin to change before its too late (I rather be 5 pounds heavier than 15 pounds heavier). I wish your daughter the best of luck!
  • moonchildmoonchild Posts: 2,951Registered User Senior Member
    You sound like a very sensitive mom. I think you're right not to mention it to her unless she brings it up while she's at school. She knows she has to change her habits, and your reminding her will do nothing but make her anxious and seem like criticism.
    I suggest waiting until summer break when she comes home to help her get back to her normal weight. Think of things you might do together- daily walking, yoga, gym membership, etc. while she's home for the summer. Then you can be sure to serve healthy foods. The weight will come off much more easily when it's warm, also.
    Eating disorders are a big problem at colleges. I would be very concerned that she not be so focused on her weight that this turns into an mental health issue like bulimia.
    I also disagree about the refrigerator/food in dorms. I think that the dining halls at many colleges don't offer enough low-calorie options. If she were able to eat more of her meals at home, whether dorm or apartment, she'd have a lot more control over her diet, and my experience is that she'd have an easier time losing the weight.

    ***Just saw the above post. Lots of good, but conflicting, advice here, as usual. Take what makes the most sense to you and fits with your daughter's personality, if possible.
  • saxsax Posts: 4,351Registered User Senior Member
    A physical is always a good idea.

    My d gained a great deal of weight when she went off to college. She was finally diagnosed with severe PCOS. And I learned about it on CC so I thought i'd share that.

    Probably not your daughters problem but brought it up for anyone else going through this. It's not always about the late night snacks and beer.
  • mom3939mom3939 Posts: 56Registered User Junior Member
    yes some conflicting advice but very helpful. If I do say something Im not sure how to say it without truly upsetting her. Shopsgal, what exactly would I say that would be ok? what would you be ok with you mom saying? Also there is no way that she does not realize it herself, so me bringing it up will only alienate her from me? We are quite close. She has always belonged to a gym, at home and at school and she does walk a lot on campus. If I have to be truly honest, I think its the partying. She has known how to eat healthy all her life but I believe she is imbibing and smoking pot which makes you eat more. Im just being honest, I am not a naiive parent. We even talked about this when she was home. I don't think she is necessarily overdoing the partying (its all relative I guess), but I think it is enabling her weight gain...
  • mom3939mom3939 Posts: 56Registered User Junior Member
    what is PCOS?
  • BayBay Posts: 10,355Registered User Senior Member
    If I have to be truly honest, I think its the partying. She has known how to eat healthy all her life but I believe she is imbibing and smoking pot which makes you eat more.

    Rather than beating around the bush, you could talk to her about cutting the calories without cutting out the partying. Mixers and regular beer contain extra calories that can easily be avoided. Suggest she mix all of her alcohol with lots of no-calorie soda water rather than sweet mixers, and drink only low-calorie beer, which she can put in a cup with lots of ice. Regarding the pot/eating issue, discuss how she can set a time limit on putting any food into her mouth - like no food after 7:00pm, because eating later than that can add pounds very easily. This will give her a rational, objective way to check her eating habits.
  • thrower1thrower1 Posts: 39Registered User Junior Member
    My daughter is a senior. She most definitely gained weight while away at school. It's the lifestyle change - dorm food, parties, etc. As a junior, she started to lose the weight once she wasn't dependant on the meal plan. She was able to make healthier choices and cook for herself.
  • shopsgal417shopsgal417 Posts: 51Registered User Junior Member
    My mom and I are very close as well. Her straightforwardness with my weight does not harm our relationship, because I know she's looking out for me and that she cares about me. However, I don't know your daughter, so she might act differently. You could say that you are concerned about her overall health. I have high cholesterol and a family history of diabetes, so my mom is always worried about me acquiring long term health conditions. Tell her that taking off the weight and taking care of herself will improve her mood and overall well-being. While voicing the health-related concerns, encourage her and express that you are concerned for her future. Tell her that you just want the best for her and want her to be happy. Be supportive and maybe offer to go on a diet with her, or she should ask a friend to go on a diet with her. Having another person to keep you in line helps a lot.
  • collegeshoppingcollegeshopping Posts: 1,922Registered User Senior Member
    Mom3939...

    How much weight are you talking about? There is a big difference between 10 pounds and 40. I think it could help taper the responses to the severity of the weight gain. Is you daughter on a meal plan or is she in an apartment controlling all her food? I read the response about the partying, smoking pot, ie leading to late night munchies, etc. Would you consider financially supporting her at Weight Watchers dot com? It is such a good website with some amazing tools and you never know what will make her pull the trigger. How are from her school are you? Would a visit from Mom for a face to face talk help her find the way?

    Just a side note for everyone, we were really careful when choosing living arrangement for our D (taking her lead) so that she could live a healthy lifestyle at college. She is dedicated to excerise and takes her nutrition pretty serious, sans an occassional stop at Sonic...lol. We ended up choosing a private dorm with a gym, pool and nutritionally balanced food. And it was no more expensive than the University's offerings.
  • WirefoxWirefox Posts: 164Registered User Junior Member
    Mom3939: I really feel for you and your daughter. This is a very hard situation. I thought I'd share my story with you.
    My daughter is a junior in college and over a 3-4 year period starting in HS, she was gaining weight. She reached a point of being 25 lbs too heavy. While she was home on winter break in sophomore year, I suggested we could both join Weight Watchers. She was very offended with my suggestion and said it was for old, fat people. However, when she came home at the end of her sophomore year in May 2010, she said to me, "I'll go to Weight Watchers now if you will too." We both went together all summer...I lost 20 lbs and she lost 16. She still has about 9 more that she is working on losing. She is so much more aware of the calories and over all nutrition of everything she eats. Friends have noticed her weight lose which makes her feel great. I know it is very hard for her and the fact that she lost 16 pounds last summer and kept it off during the fall semester is huge for her. She goes to WW at school...complains that it isn't as good as the meetings we went to near our home over the summer but I think going helps to keep her motivated. She knows I want her to get the remaining 9 lbs off because if she reaches her goal and maintains it for 6 weeks, she will be come a life time member of WW. Becoming a lifetime member means no more monthly payments as long as she stays within 2 lbs of her goal. I'm hoping she gets there soon but I am also glad of the progress she has made.
    Good luck to you and your daughter.
  • ucsd_ucla_daducsd_ucla_dad Posts: 8,573Registered User Senior Member
    Ultimately she's the only one who can fix the problem.

    She already raised the issue with you so that implies she's at least somewhat open to a discussion on it. I'd be fairly blunt in discussing it with her but that's my nature.

    Unless she already realizes what the exact problem is that's causing the weight to be put on, that's the first area to try to determine. Is the weight coming on because of alcohol? Because of pizza for every meal? Because of a perpetual stash of junk food like chips, candy, cookies (lots of students have this issue)? Are illegal drugs playing a part? Is she taking any prescription medication that could play a part?

    Since she didn't have the problem the first year yet still attended classes then there likely wasn't a change in how she transports herself to classes (walking/biking) that caused it.

    It's good for anyone to have an exercise routine and it's good to do one while in college but realistically, routine exercise isn't much of a match for junk food and alcohol. The idea that she could burn off those excess calories by exercising a bit more each day, which would likely burn off only a few hundred calories, just isn't sound.

    She likely knows where she's getting all of these excess calories that are causing the weight gain. She'll just have to turn it around and 'quit doing that'. If in lieu of the BF she's decided to party hard and frequently, she needs to quit that. If she's resorted to finding solace in bags of chips and ice cream on an ongoing basis, she needs to quit that too. Of course, she should quit doing any drugs if she's doing that.

    If she doesn't have a workout routine then she should start one up. It's healthy for the mind as well as the body, helps relieve stress, and fills some of the time when she'd otherwise be eating the junk food.

    If she has no idea how she could be putting on the weight and you can't figure it out either by discussing her current lifestyle fairly candidly with her then she should see her doctor to find out if there's something else at play here.
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