Weight is A Heavy Topic With Grown Daughter

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Dear Whit:

Our daughter “Emma” has been out of college for a few years and is in her late 20s, so my wife and I don’t have much influence over her anymore. She has a job and a boyfriend about 2 hours away from us and sees us maybe five or six times a year, usually vacation time for her and during the holidays.

What’s bothering my wife and I is that Emma has been putting on weight steadily since college and is getting noticeably heavy (at least to us). Her mother and I both know that nagging doesn’t work, but my wife especially thinks that this weight gain is worrisome, and to tell the truth I’d like to see my daughter the way she used to be. Is there anything we can do besides telling her how we feel?

Discouraged Dad

Dear Discouraged:

What do you have in mind?  Ground her if she doesn’t listen to you? As you say, you “don’t have much influence over her,” so recognize that you are not going to be able to get Emma to change her habits. What you can do is to maintain contact with her via email, or phone, or whatever is her transmission device of choice.

Ask Emma about her life and listen to what she has to say. Resist the temptation to give advice or make suggestions that you think would help her lose weight—or any other subject that you and your wife think needs her attention.

Maybe something is going on that contributes to her weight gain, but don’t connect the two; just demonstrate a sincere interest in whatever she wants to share with you.  You can’t fake it either. If you do, you will probably forget about just paying attention and start giving advice.

Both you and your wife have to accept that you can’t micro-manage Emma’s curriculum vitae no matter how well intentioned you are. And no matter how worried your wife is or how nostalgic you are for your daughter of slimmer days, you can’t get her back. All you can do is drive her away and maybe toward the refrigerator.

Think of your role this way: if you try to pressure Emma to meet your needs and ignore hers, she could stop listening to you and start listening to her gut.

Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, an advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker.  Send your questions to [email protected]

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  1. How would the dad feel if his daughter told him she wished he looked the way he did in high school? This dad should be happy his daughter has made a life of her own.

    • Good point, planetmom. Some parents never outgrow the controlling role they’ve played all their offspring’s life. I wonder what the daughter’s viewpoint is.

  2. Why assume that her weight gain is something to worry about? Perhaps she is just growing from teen to adult and her body shape is becoming what it is ultimately meant to be.

    • Good point, Rachel. Maybe the parents are the ones who have the problem. What I would want to know is what Emma thinks.

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