My daughter is now a sophomore in college and I am very concerned about her weight. Prior to starting college, she had always been a healthy weight and athletic and loved playing sports.

By the end of her freshman year, she had put on 40 lbs or so and had developed extremely unhealthy eating habits seemingly overnight. I talked to her about this and she said the stress / adjustment to college life had made it tough, but that she was going to start working out and eating better. She lost about 10 lbs during summer, and I could tell she already felt a little bit better.

However, she visited home recently for the first time since leaving for school in August and she revealed to me that she had gained 25 lbs. I am very worried for her health with such a drastic change and she is devastated at the change in her body. She has always been a wiry girl and to have her doctor tell her that she is now clinically overweight took a toll on her self-worth.

How can I help her without pushing her or making her feel uncomfortable in her skin? I know she wants to make this change but I am worried she won't be able to push herself to do so.

4 Answers 4


Ask her. It sounds like she has a good understanding of the problem and the general solution, so don't try to push anything on her.

If you tell her, "I love you very much, and I know you're concerned with your weight. What can I do to help?" then maybe you can become part of the solution, instead of another one of her problems.

If she has suggestions ("Remind me to drink a glass of water before every meal. Make sure there are always washed and cut up red peppers in the fridge.") then follow them. Don't invent new ones.

If she brushes you off, you can maybe try, "I'm serious. For most people, maintaining a healthy weight is easy when you're young. Then you reach a certain age -- which is different for everyone! -- and it becomes hard. I've had many years' experience with trying to keep the pounds off myself, so I know how hard it is." (Only say this if it is true -- if you're one of those people who can eat anything without gaining weight, don't try to claim otherwise.) Tell her again, "If there's anything you want me to do to support you, I would be happy to help."

And then leave it. You can't make her want to lose her excess weight, you can only make her more unhappy about it.


Something not talked about in the other great answers is that in college it can be difficult to plan and eat healthy meals and healthy portioned meals. If she is open to the discussions, talk to her about things like what healthy partitions look like and a healthy balanced meal.

When I was in college, the campus meal plan program gave us so many "swipes" as meals. Going to a dining hall meant something like an all you can eat plate of food, while other places got you a sandwich, side, and drink for a swipe which could mean wildly different nutrition. It could be that her "healthy" meals presented on campus just have too many calories for her needs. She may need to split up her meals better. Or plan on smaller meals, or have easy healthy snacks available to her where she lives.

I was once a very active high schooler that struggled with being less active in college while not adjusting my eating. She may need to retrain her brain to realize she doesn't need as much, and help figure out what her new normal is, and you can help guide her to that. These days it is too easy to eat too much, even "healthy" stuff without realizing it.


Helping your daughter develop a healthier way to cope/deal with stress would be one of the most productive, long term solutions for both of you. Contact her campus and find out if they have a gym, pool, or athletic programs that she would be able to take advantage of. Not all do. If her college is not outfitted in that way, search online for nearby gyms, the y(m/w)ca, yoga studios, etc. Look into local clubs, too. Group activities can encourage people to participate and make exercise more fun.

Talk to her about what activities she might enjoy doing. Is she in an area where she can bicycle back and forth to class? What kind of things did she enjoy in her youth? Help her pay for classes, or buy her a bike, etc., whatever will get her up and moving. Life inlcudes work, school, friends, family, and time for yourself.

Learning how to balance/juggle it all will give her the keys to success.


As she is aware of her weight gain, knows the reason for it, and feels bad about the change I don't think it will be hard to bring up the subject of you wanting to help her.

Although sports can be (it is for me) a very effective stress-reliever she might just not find/make the time for it. If she can find someone to go run/swim/[insert favourite sport here] together with that can already be a great motivation to keep doing it!

Unless you can do sports together in the weekend, as a parent I would focus on her unhealthy eating habits. Try to work out together if it is a lack of time or skills or a bad habit that prevents her from having healthy food. Think of some tasty dishes that take little time to prepare and if necessary show her to to prepare them.

Good luck!

  • And SNACKS! Not just meals! Help her figure out SNACKS. It is SO easy to scarf down a slice of pizza or a bag of chips between classes. Nov 7, 2018 at 19:26
  • For the snacks, get ones that are "easy", healthy and taste good since I know college life can be busy. Perhaps that is as simple as having apples laying around or some veggie that she can eat raw
    – Eric F
    Nov 7, 2018 at 19:28

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