The Weighting Game

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diet and adhdAt our house, weighing in at the psychiatrist’s office has been a stressful event. Loss of appetite was the most worrisome side effect for Lesley, our tall, slim 15 year-old-daughter taking Concerta to help her manage the symptoms of ADHD-inattentive.

Her weight gain was closely monitored, much to her chagrin. Although she didn’t lose any weight, any measured weight gain was miniscule during the school year. Yet she gained very little weight over this past summer when she wasn’t taking the meds, a fact that would seem to point to genetics rather than the environment of Concerta’s appetite-suppressing side effects.

Just as I was starting to feel almost smug about what she ate, how she was studying and the system we seemed to have a handle on, everything shifted slightly, and our household struggled anew to find the right balance.
What was this shift? She gained 10 pounds.

While the news was good to me, Lesley didn’t share my perspective. To me, she looked great. I wasn’t sure how she had put on weight without any of us noticing. I knew she looked taller (again), but when I started to observe, I realized that she was curvy. Meanwhile, Lesley spent more time assessing her body in front of the mirror. “I don’t like the way my thighs look. They’re definitely bigger.”

When she announced at the dinner table that she was starting a strict diet, I inwardly panicked. Vegetables, eggs, nuts and cheese – that was what she planned to eat. No sweets would pass her lips and poison her body. Two close friends heard this as I heard it for the first time. The look in 16-year-old Adrienne’s eyes and her furrowed brow indicated her concern. “I don’t think you need a diet” she quietly offered.

Lesley remained dubious. She didn’t discuss the issue any more, but I knew from her food choices that she was being very cautious. Her typical daily diet was a tiny bowl of Cheerios with milk for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and a bunless veggie burger and carrot sticks for dinner. I figured it was time for the reinforcements so I made an appointment with our family doctor for a check-up.

I told her that if she was going on a diet or starting a strenuous exercise program, she should always check with her doctor first. Dr. Kurian has been our family doctor for the past five years, and I trusted her to have the right words for Lesley.

I can’t say that Lesley was very enthusiastic about this visit. After the preliminary greetings, Dr. Kurian asked (as always), “So, what can I do for you?”

My southern upbringing has trained me to speak carefully. ” Lesley needs a check-up because she’s going to a new school in the fall, and also….”

That’s when Lesley couldn’t be restrained any longer: “We’re basically here because I want to go on a diet, and she (could this have been said with more disgust?) wants you to tell me it’s a horrible idea.”

I’m sure it wasn’t the first time Dr. Kurian had seen this dilemma. A seasoned veteran, she calmly looked at me and said, “You have to go. I need to talk with Lesley alone.” And because (even though she’s not from the South) she’s one of the most incredibly polite people I know, she added “I hope you don’t mind.”

I assured her I didn’t and left quickly. I buried myself in the book I’d brought along and waited. Eventually, Lesley came to me in the waiting room. “Now what?” I ventured.

“You can ask the doctor questions if you like.”

I put my book up and followed her back into Dr. Kurian’s office. “And the diet?” (Yes, I am rather one-track minded in cases like this.)

She looked at Lesley. “What are you going to eat?”

“Healthy food.”

“Right. She’s your mother; we have to tell her something.”

Lesley seemed pleased with that statement. I felt relieved; I knew they had made a connection and discussed what was important. My relief was sustained as Lesley joined in and ate with the family that evening. Evidently veggie burgers are monotonous after a few consecutive meals.

Recent events have reiterated that parenting any child is an ongoing adventure and learning opportunity. Few things remain static, and I’m still learning to parent. Probably the most confident a mother will be is when she’s pregnant with her first born or when she’s a grandmother. Thankfully, I’m at neither stage now.

For now, I’m trying to balance by exhibiting concern but not worry. I want to bolster confidence without coddling. I want to ask the right questions but not nag. I aim to offer a variety of healthy food, but not a “diet.” Dang, that’s hard!

Is weight a concern with your ADHD teen? How are you balancing these concerns at your house? Kayla and I would love to hear from you.