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(of note, both of us parents are prediabetic)

I am a parent of my thirteen year old son, and he has started to refrain from eating food in general. At first, it was subtle, but now he outright refuses or offers great resistance to eating food because he "doesn't want to be like us when [he] grows up". While we are prediabetic and want to prevent anything like that from happening to him in the future, we also want to encourage him to eat a healthy amount of food for his age, especially since he is growing and he is in an athletics program. He seems to get most annoyed when he catches us watching health videos, and while we try to hide them from him, he still expresses dissent. How can we encourage our son to eat a healthy amount of food?

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  • Can you elaborate in what way your son doesn't want to be like you when he grows up? Apr 9 at 15:04
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau He doesn't want to have blood sugar problems like us when he's older.
    – rando
    Apr 9 at 16:27
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    The refusal to eat anything is in effect a psychiatric problem. He may be fasting for the given reason, or he may have an eating disorder. While you can't make him eat normal amounts of food, you can take him to a doctor. He needs to see a one pronto. Apr 9 at 16:28
  • @rando: do you have any indication that he doesn't get enough food ? How do you determine what "a healthy amount of food" for him is ?
    – Hilmar
    Apr 11 at 1:55

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I'm answering this in spite of my belief that this is a question seeking medical advice because maybe it might be helpful.

You haven't said why the two of you (parents) are prediabetic. If it is due to obesity and lifestyle decisions, then maybe that is his fear: that he will become obese. That's a powerful fear for an adolescent in a culture of youth. Both of you working relentlessly to lose weight and become fit (and actually becoming fit) may show him that it's possible to be fit, even if prediabetic, through improved food choices and lifestyle changes. If he sees you lose weight and become more fit, especially if he values athleticism, that may be a powerful message that eating is not inherently dangerous and need not lead to obesity. (I would hope the house has plenty of healthy foods to choose from, and very little of the unhealthy stuff.)

If, however, you both have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, he probably does as well, and, as I said, this is a powerful fear. Maybe he thinks that not eating is the only solution.

Either way, in this age of information at one's fingertips, he does have the ability to educate himself on nutrition. There is a lot of good information on YouTube and in the (more laborious to extract but more helpful) NIH.gov site. If he does not want to investigate how to eat healthily himself or with your help, then get him to a doctor and a good nutritionist; the doctor to evaluate his physical and psychological health, and the nutritionist to put his mind at ease and start dealing with how to eat healthily, especially while participating in athletics.

This is a period when eating disorders commonly begin. Your son may be avoiding food for the reason he states to you, or he may be using that excuse to hide an eating disorder. Eating disorders can have a lifelong deleterious effect. I believe you need to take this very seriously and get professional help.

I'm not going to get into how you can control what he watches on the internet. You basically can't, and the idea has already taken hold such that even if you took away all his media access, it might not help. But you can't wait to find out. This is a pretty important time physically to be eating, even if not eating optimally.

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    I started to write an answer along these lines, but decided against it as I don't have any medical training. I think you made the right call here. Apr 10 at 15:28

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