Ask Eliza: Our Daughter is So Unhappy and She’s Not Really That Overweight

Q: We’ve tried just about everything, I think, and nothing has really helped our daughter lose weight. She’s not even really that overweight but she’s so unhappy about it, I can tell she’s feeling like she’s all messed up. Should we think about a weight loss camp, or is that overkill since she’s not really that heavy?

A:  There are two parts to this question that I’d like to address:

1) The part about your daughter feeling unhappy about her weight and feeling like “she’s all messed up”…

One of the things we work on at camp is untangling weight from happiness — these are two separate things. 

Saying “she’s so unhappy and she’s not even really that overweight”, makes an automatic underlying assumption that losing weight would lead to happiness. I have seen people lose a significant amount of weight through restriction, anger, over-exercise, deprivation and degradation and guess what? They were not HAPPY when they lost the weight. That happiness eluded them because they addressed the symptom (weight) and not the cause (unhappiness).

Our trained, licensed camp therapists teach skills that encourage campers to make choices that leave them feeling nourished — physically, mentally and emotionally. When this happens:

  • Binging decreases (if not abates altogether)
  • Junk and processed food decreases (doesn’t feel nourishing emotionally or physically)
  • Movement increases (no more forcing or over-exercising)

When weight starts to change in reaction to changed behaviors, this further solidifies the positive emotions — thus creating lasting happiness.

2) The part about whether camp might be a good fit for her if “she’s really not that heavy”…

Many teens with weight concerns have emotional issues related to food and eating, and this is an area where Empowered Wellness camp is especially helpful. It’s not so much weight or size that we’re focused on, but ways we can help facilitate healthier coping/food/movement strategies that foster health and happiness from the inside out.  

Once behaviors feel nourishing and consistent, weight will take care of itself.

This leads me back to your daughter…

It’s time to get clear about where her unhappiness is coming from, and how she might be using food as a coping mechanism. 

If she is feeling anxiety, depression, sadness or emotional strain from somewhere else in her life — she will not feel satisfied in her body no matter what her weight. It IS possible for her to feel happier and more confident when her shape changes, but we believe that comes about from making consistent choices that empower her physically, mentally and emotionally