Dad Puts 9-Year-Old on Extreme Diet & Doesn't See the Damage He's Doing

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The messages we send kids about the food they eat have the potential to last a lifetime. Of course we want them to develop healthy habits early, but there's a thin line between teaching kids to eat healthy and instilling negative thinking about food. One dad on Reddit recently seemed to forget this crucial difference -- or maybe he never knew it. Either way, many are saying he went way too far in his attempt to help 9-year-old daughter lose weight, and it's sparked a heated conversation in the online forum.

  • The anonymous dad admitted that he hasn't always been around for his daughter, but he's recently moved closer, which is when the problem started.

    After being away from his daughter for four years, the 34-year-old dad moved back and has taken regular custody of her, he explained in his post. But recently, he started to grow concerned about some "changes" in her.

    "I had noticed M [my daughter] starting to put on weight," he began. "She's not obese but seeing her in person, I've noticed she has a belly which hangs over her waistband, and she wears 12-13 clothes despite being only 9."

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  • When the dad questioned his ex about their daughter's diet, she told him that the girl was perfectly normal.

    In fact, his ex told him that their daughter eats healthy and participates in a sport, with regular practices twice a week. To us, that sounds pretty amazing (and yes, very "normal"). But the dad didn't seem to agree.

    "I asked about portion sizes and other exercise (twice a week for 90 mins isn't that much)," the dad explained. "I was trying to stay friendly but ex shut me down."

  • So, he decided to take the matter into his own hands.

    He admitted that he knows it can be harder to lose weight as kids get older, so he decided to put his daughter on a healthy eating and exercise plan when she spent custody time with him.

    "I did not put her on a crash diet, but I did start using a portion control plate and packing lean lunches instead of letting her buy her food (carrot sticks, yogurt, flavored steamed chicken breast etc.)" he explained. "M complained at first but then seemed fine with this."

    "I also took her to the gym with me four times a week," he continued, adding that his gym has parent and child classes.

  • The dad also insisted that he didn't use any body-shaming language when he spoke to his daughter.

    In fact, "the only thing I said to M about it is that we were working to set her up for the future being physically fit and mindful of what she eats," he continued.

    But kids are smarter than we often give them credit for, and it didn't take long for his daughter to sense something was amiss.

  • At a recent birthday party, the whole thing finally blew up in the dad's face.

    Although all of the other kids got to bring their favorite snacks to the movie and sleepover party, the dad stuck to his strict eating plan for his daughter -- and sent her to the party with hummus and veggie sticks.

    "She made a little fuss about not getting candy but seemed fine," he wrote.

    Things changed when she got to the party and probably saw what the others kids were eating. The next day, the girl's mother texted him and was obviously furious.

    "Apparently when they were [sitting and] waiting for the movie kids started comparing snacks," he wrote. "M told the other kids that they were gonna get fat and unhealthy because their parents gave them those snacks. She said she had to eat the veggies so she could lose weight, and she wasn't allowed any popcorn (I never said this)."

    Back at her friend's house, M further refused to eat anything, insisting she was "going to get fat." The night ended with the parents of the birthday girl calling his ex, and asking her to come pick up her daughter.

  • When the 9-year-old opened up to her mom, her anxiety about gaining weight was heartbreaking.

    His ex told him that their daughter was left in tears and scared to death that if she ate anything "bad" she'd put on weight and "everyone would hate her," the dad relayed in his post.

    She also told her mom about her dad's gym routine with her, which the mom hadn't known about.

    As it turned out, his ex had seen signs that something was off when she came back from her dad's house, and noticed that the girl was often tired and refused to eat. But she never expected this.

    "She blames me for giving M a complex when she was healthy and active," the dad continued. "I said if she was healthy she wouldn't have a belly and be bigger than other girls. I said that at least I cared about what the girl puts in her mouth and she said M was happier before I moved back."

    Now, his ex is telling him that she won't send her back for visits if the dad doesn't stop "emotionally damaging' her," which led him to ask Reddit whether he's in the wrong.

  • The comments were pretty much unanimous: Most people found the dad to be a Class A jerk.


    "Man, your daughter is NINE," one commenter wrote. "She is a little chubby, for what you have said, and she was CRYING because she was scared if she ate anything. For christ's sake, YTA and you are [expletive] your daughter's life up. What the actual hell you think you are doing?"

    "I appreciate that you are looking out for your daughter, but this is completely the wrong way to go about it," a second person chimed in. "Yeah, she may have a little baby fat on her but she’s nine and hasn’t hit puberty yet. When she does, keep her active (as she will be in gym class at school), and she’ll be fine. Right now, you are just freaking her out, and giving her a complex because of the way she looks to you."
    Another person suggested that the dad leave things to the professionals.

    "Yeah, if OP's actually worried about his daughter, maybe take her to a doctor? Visit with a nutritionist?" the person suggested. "A lot of girls start to put on a little weight when their bodies are getting ready for puberty, and puberty has been starting younger and younger in Western countries. Or even if she's a little chubby, if OP's left her weeping about her weight, at age nine, something's wrong."

  • However, there were a few people on the dad's side.


    "Regardless of what Reddit says, being fat is unhealthy and allowing your child to become obese is child abuse," one commenter snipped. "Get your kid in shape and teach them healthy eating habits and don't worry that online idiots will call you an [expletive]. You're saving your kids life down the road. Which do you think is more important?"

    "I'm shocked there are so many people calling you an AH," a second person wrote. "You never body-shamed her or even called her fat to her face. You are trying to promote healthy habits."

    Another commenter weighed in with personal experience, writing:

    "I was a fat kid and not being taught a healthy life style has led me to have issues with my weight. I wish my parents had done the same thing for me. OP's ex isn't the AH either because OP should have discussed what was happening. But you both need to have a chat with your kid and explain proper healthy habits."

    Here's the bottom line, though: If the dad had any serious concerns about his daughter's weight, he should have spoken with her pediatrician first. And if an issue truly existed, he should have spoken with his ex to make a plan together.

    As we all know, young girls are especially receptive to negative messages about their bodies, so even though the father's intentions may have been well-meaning, he needs to make it clear that he loves his daughter no matter what her size.

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