We have a 13 yr old girl who steals food. We'd always had this issue to one extent or the other, but lately it seems our methods are no longer working. We put a big bowl of fruit on the dining table, it's free for the taking, no need to ask permission for fruit (or applesauce). Then we buy her her own snacks to take to school with her, ones that no one else in house eats and ones that she picked out. But she will eat an entire box of granola bars in one weekend and then move on to other foods. She will finish a giant tub of peanut butter in about two weeks and then there is none left for the rest of the month. I have to stop buying items that I feel are a weakness for her that she has no self control over. It doesn't matter if it's a healthy snack, it's not healthy to over eat or eat it all at once. The other items she no longer eats. We buy lunch fixings, sandwich fixings, cereal, etc. But she no longer gets up and eats breakfast, doesn't bother taking a lunch to school anymore, doesn't eat all day and then gorges when she gets home. We tell her she may have fruit and a cheese stick as an afternoon snack, but that's not enough, she eats a lunch size meal and then two hours later eats dinner. She is home by herself for about 30 minutes until one of us gets home. And lately she's been stealing food out of OUR lunch bags that my DH and I take to work. She's also been stealing my DH's post workout recovery protein shakes and bars. (he lifts weights) She ate an entire tub of cool whip from the freezer. She ate an entire 8 oz tub of cream cheese. She loses privileges if she's caught, but it doesn't seem to be a deterant. I am so tired of food turning up missing that I want to lock everything up but I don't want to make matters worse. What used to work in the past no longer seems to be working. I've even sat down and tried to talk to her about it for over an hour and got no where. Any suggestions?
First, he's a boy. Let me start by saying he's "mild" MR.
We don't control the food as such. There are fruits avail and snack cheese, granola bars, etc. We are trying to limit the amount of the "bad" foods. He can still have cereal, but 1 bowl, not several. Moot point though, he'll eat his bowl of cereal here, then go to school and eat more there. He can have 1 small sprite, etc. Not that he can't have any, just smaller portions.
As far as cooking together, as he's MR short of stirring something, I don't really want him near the stove. When he gets home from school, he'll usually have apple/peanut butter. We bought in the carrots / celery with ranch dressing. He rarely touches the latter.
This child watches the clock. Exactly 2 hours after he's had some food, he wants more. We have dinner at 6, at or by 8 he wants a "snack." He wants to eat another "large" meal practically and gets upset when we try to explain to eat something small like a cheese/crackers as he's going to bed soon. This usually results in him shutting himself in his room......
But we have healthy foods here too. My spouse and our child LOVE veggies. My spouse and I love fruits (our son, not so much except mangos). As for banana bread, yummy, but he (Foster Child) won't touch it. Short of the apple / peanut butter, he avoids fruit like the plague. He rarely eats veggies either. I try to make sure dinner has some veggies in it. I do purchase smoothies for him, again, trying to get some kind of fruit into him....
So, it's not like he can't have ANY, just smaller "child size" portions.
prime40
First, he's a boy. Let me start by saying he's "mild" MR.
We don't control the food as such. There are fruits avail and snack cheese, granola bars, etc. We are trying to limit the amount of the "bad" foods. He can still have cereal, but 1 bowl, not several. Moot point though, he'll eat his bowl of cereal here, then go to school and eat more there. He can have 1 small sprite, etc. Not that he can't have any, just smaller portions.
As far as cooking together, as he's MR short of stirring something, I don't really want him near the stove. When he gets home from school, he'll usually have apple/peanut butter. We bought in the carrots / celery with ranch dressing. He rarely touches the latter.
This child watches the clock. Exactly 2 hours after he's had some food, he wants more. We have dinner at 6, at or by 8 he wants a "snack." He wants to eat another "large" meal practically and gets upset when we try to explain to eat something small like a cheese/crackers as he's going to bed soon. This usually results in him shutting himself in his room......
But we have healthy foods here too. My spouse and our child LOVE veggies. My spouse and I love fruits (our son, not so much except mangos). As for banana bread, yummy, but he (Foster Child) won't touch it. Short of the apple / peanut butter, he avoids fruit like the plague. He rarely eats veggies either. I try to make sure dinner has some veggies in it. I do purchase smoothies for him, again, trying to get some kind of fruit into him....
So, it's not like he can't have ANY, just smaller "child size" portions.
If you were pointing out "he" was a boy to me....well I'm sorry. I went back to the original poster and the topic was about a 13 year old female who was having issues. And I spoke in generalities, since there wasn't any real background such as medical. I'm sorry if you took offense as to my suggestions. They really were just my own thoughts and suggestions for anyone who wanted to use them, but tailored towards the original poster. This way, if my ideas seemed to work for the original poster, you, or anyone else....they could be used. And, if they didn't work based on the medical or background of a persons specific family, then that person can choose not to use them. No disrespect meant from me to anyone.
Sorry, I didn't know how to respond with out sounding cranky. I'm not mad or upset. We've done foster care before over a decade ago for 5 years. We've been back into it for about a year and then some. Probably about 15+ kids over the years, all ages from infant to 16.... I guess I was just trying to convey what my husband says : This aint our first Rodeo. lol
This is however our first MR. It's kind of a moot point anyway though. His....issues seem worse than we were lead to believe, so we turned in a 30 day notice. He can be a really good kid, but.... His issues are a bit much for us to handle and it's taken it's toll on our family.
Besides, when my hubbies home he sort of snacks all day, doesn't really eat "meals." So, the child also snacks all day, and doesn't eat meals.... :-)
Thank you for all your suggestions. Yes, we are discussing a (now 14) year old female. I have tried everything. We think that she is either an emotional eater, one who is using food for comfort or to fill a void. Or it's a control issue. She has had blood work done and it came back normal. We started purchasing school lunches which she now eats, but does not eat breakfast, instead has breakfast as an after school snack, because she feels justified in having it because it was hers in the first place just chose to save it for after school. She has gained more that 50 pounds this year. Keep in mind we have NO junk food in our house: no chips, no cookies, no desserts, no soda, no sugar. The only snacks are healthy ones. I thought that if it was attachment based that I would try for one month provide all her food for her, she could not make it herself, it had to be made by me, I would get up early and make breakfast and put it on the table for her to eat when she was ready but it ultimately ended up in the trash (didn't matter what it was). I tried changing it up every day. I would put a snack (ones she usually eats without issue) on her dresser for when she got home from school and she would complain that was not what she wanted, she would put the item away and go sneak something else. So after a month of that, I quit doing it. It seems to me she uses that as a way of rejecting me. We've tried giving her her own shelf in the pantry and stocking it with her foods, no one else would eat, they were just hers, she would eat most of it in a week and then start eating whatever she could get her hands on. We are on a grocery budget so the idea of have unlimited supplies of food so the fear will go away is not an option for us. We have had to start locking foods up in order to make them last. I buy ingredients for recipes that I have to lock up in order to have it ready when it's time to make that recipe. I do believe it's a mix of both emotional and control. It doesn't matter if I make it exactly like I know she likes it, she still complains and has to modify it somehow. Do we just give her complete control and hope it goes away or do we continue this battle? I told her that if she is hungry after school that's okay and if she needs to make herself a meal instead of a snack, then she would have a smaller dinner and not be allowed to have seconds. Her response? "I hate you guys". She proceeded to storm off to her room and slam the door. We cannot even discuss it. Also, I have never seen anyone eat so fast in all my life. But she doesn't eat like that when we are with relatives, and she never finishes her food when we are with relatives either, but the second they are gone, she's got her hands in the leftovers. Every time I try to talk to her about it she gets defensive. We've already talked about nutrition and lifestyle, we feel we set great example, my spouse and I workout 4 days a week and go hiking on the weekends. But it's not about lack of knowledge on her part, it's not like she doesn't know any better, she does, she says she just doesn't care. When I try to explain that her eating habits aren't healthy, she remarks, I don't care. Part of that is low self esteem. She needs to understand that her habits affect the whole family. Like any other addiction.
Do you have her in counseling at all? It sounds like you are / have tried everything right. The more you try to show her you care, the more she is pushing away. It may be time to try just laying down the law, this is what is expected, and stay firm. If counseling is an option, I would try, or at least have it as a topic of some of her sessions. She is using it at as a way to hurt / push you away. Its hard, just document everything you have tried now and as if happens, so if her gaining weight is ever brought up, you can go through everything. Unfortunately, just because you are doing everything right, this doesn't stop people who aren't in your home, from throwing stones, and you need to be prepared. It is easier to document as if happens, then to have to go through all of the emotions if it is ever brought up.
The first thing to remember is that you should NEVER get involved in food wars; they're battles that parents NEVER win.
When a child comes home with food insecurities, the best thing to do is let him/her access food 24/7 and ignore it. He/she will eat like crazy -- anything and everything -- for a few months, and when he/she feels more confident that there will always be enough food, he/she will gradually turn into a more selective, less food obsessed child.
You can set some ground rules. As an example, you can tell him/her that he/she can take anything from YOUR fridge and cupboards, but that he/she cannot take food from other people's homes or lunchboxes, or there will be consequences. You can tell him/her that he/she can eat anything he/she wants, but must be seated at the table to do so -- no squirreling away food in his/her room, for example. You can buy only healthy foods, but let him/her have one unhealthy snack a week -- for example, taking him/her to the ice cream store or letting him/her choose a candy bar in the supermarket.
Often, post-adoption food obsessions subside once a child feels sure that there will always be enough food and once he/she is comfortable in his/her new home. But, sometimes, you will need to get some professional help, usually if there is more to the story than food obsession -- for example, if the child is also lying a lot, trying to harm a sibling, being defiant with you, etc. He/she may have a mental health issue such as attachment disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
Sharon
So since she is now officially obese, we decided to try a new approach. We first called it "getting healthy" instead of "losing weight". She wants to "get healthy" and had made herself some reasonable goals. So we came up with a plan that involved ADDING things to her daily routine that were do-able. We never took anything away. We added breakfast, she was always too much in a hurry to get to school that she would skip breakfast, we provided her a breakfast to go. We added multi vitamins with fiber. We added daily exercise, she signed up for P.E. and soccer. We made sure she drank enough water every day. We even starting giving her a sugar free desert each night when we never had desserts in our home before. ETC. ETC. ETC. Anyways, she will stop at nothing to get her hands on snacks and treats when she is not home. I am constantly finding snack wrappers in her room. She has no money and the only vending machine at her school is in the teachers lounge, which is off limits. So I think she is stealing snacks from other students. She also spent spring break at the boys and girls club where she ate two breakfasts and two lunches and still came home demanding snacks. She lies about food whenever confronted. The other day she came up with this elaborate story about a thing they were doing in class and how a friend was making a cake and she was supposed to bring frosting, so my husband drove her to the store and let her pick out a tub of frosting and then she said she also was supposed to bring chips and drinks too. But he said no and only bought her the frosting. When I found out about it, I knew she had no intention of bringing it to school. So when she took her shower that night, I searched her room and didn't find it, that meant that she took it into the bathroom with her. SO when she came out my husband asked to see it, she had carefully replaced the lid so it didn't look open, he opened it and it was half empty already. I emailed the teacher to let her know that she wouldn't be bringing in anything for the party or project and the teacher said there is no party and they have all the supplies they need for various projects, she wouldn't ask the students to buy anything.
[FONT="Comic Sans MS"]We too had a child just like this. A boy though. We never really solved his problem either. What did help a little was giving him his own food.... a special food just for him. It turned out he really like hot pockets. So every week we bought him his own box of... well, lean pockets (he didn't know the diff)....
We also provided a diff snack every few days. You mentioned she gets tired of fruits.... So did he. So, I'd boil eggs, buy in carrots and ranch dressing, pickles, fruits, etc.
We also tried to work with him on a time limit. He could have a "snack" every 2 - 2.5 hours.... This way he wasn't "denied" snacks, just had to wait a bit.... Otherwise he ate NON STOP. He would actually watch the clock. At 2 hours he'd go get a snack. If he ate the hot pockets up all in a day or two, so sorry, they were yours but you used them up. So, he learned to eat only one a day of those....
Basically, he got a snack when he got home from school, about 2 hours later we ate dinner and about 3 hours later was bed time. And yes, he ate a snack before bed. So he ended up eating LESS snacks over all.... Weekends was similar, a snack midway between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and one before bed.
Like your daughter getting tired of fruits, he got tired of everything after a day or two. He liked carrots, then after a day or two he didn't like them any more. He like hard boiled eggs, then a day or two later he didn't like them any more. The same with all the others. So I started mixing it up. Every few days I'd make sure there was something else avail. Even string cheese... or grapes on occasion. It helped a little bit, though I think our grocery bill went up (healthy snacks cost more than junk snack foods). But his weight (he'd gained a lot!) started to level out and he even lost a few pounds....
He was removed shortly here after, but we did help a little bit with the weight he'd put on. Oh, and you can freeze peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'd make little half sandwiches and freeze them. Take them out, hold them between your hands for a min or two and they're ready to go. But again, nothing worked for too long, so we had to keep changing it up.
I don't know if it'll help or not, but that's my suggestion, mix it up a little bit for her. Let her try new things... maybe yogurt? Yogurt covered raisins? Does she have a therapist? What does he/she recommend. A food diary for her to "see" how much and what she's eating?
Maybe if the snacks "look" more like the junk food she seems to "need" it work better? I don't know how to make "good" foods look more like junk food though.... Just a thought.[/FONT]
My husband suggested we let her pick out all her own food for one month. I am a little hesitant to go back to the way we did things in the beginning because I think she will just continue to gain weight. She loves sports but can barely run, she is so short. And the weight is really hampering her ability to run and play. If we go back to her having snacks again, although somewhat healthy, it isn't healthy in large quantities. I was hoping to improve the attachment by providing for her so she wouldn't have to worry about food all the time, but after years of trying different things, I am at a loss as to what to try. If she has her own snacks and breakfasts then it will be her choices and she will feel better having that control. We would still provide dinners and she would still get a school lunch. We'll see how she does and I will post an update. I just hope she can make healthy choices and see the benefits of those choices and the consequences of poor choices. It reminds me of the time I bought frozen burritos for lunches on the weekends that she could just warm up. It was a 10 pack, we went to run some errands and when I came home, she had eaten 8 of the 10 burritos for one lunch! How are they supposed to last if she does that? Maybe we just need to let it run out and just tell her, that when it's gone it's gone. I just hope that doesn't backfire. She will use up something too quickly but then am I supposed to let her go hungry because there are no more lunch items for the weekends?
I have a son we adopted through fostercare at 4 who has very similar issues so reading your thread has given me some ideas but more than anything made me feel like I'm not alone.
Our son is now 14 so we have been dealing with this for over 10 years now. It's horrible. We have him back in counseling for the third time over the same issues he's always had. It seems like nothing works. Or doesn't work for more than a week or two at best but like you, we have tried everything. He also has issues with attachment and sneaking/stealing. It's gotten worse over the years because he's not just stealing from us anymore. He steals food/treats and other things at relatives homes, friends homes, school and now gas stations. He is on his last chance at school. If they catch him one more time he will be expelled. I had to sew all of his pockets shut, he's no longer able to bring a backpack that he can hide things in, he no longer has a locker and he can't be the first or last person in/out of any room and they only allow him to leave the class with an escort during set bathroom breaks. All as a last ditch effort to help him change this behavior before they are forced to kick him out. He would steal right from teachers purses, kids lunch boxes, even stealing from the teachers lounge and nurses area.
We had him in therapy a couple times before and It got the point where his therapist said we just had to look at it like a disease. Like alcoholism. She said you wouldn't leave alcohol available for an alcoholic and it was the same for him. Food is all around him so that temptation is always there. We'd either have to "accept it", or we'd literally have to place locks on everything.
Well, we did end up putting a lock on our pantry door since that was our biggest problem area. But I'm not willing to live that way with locks on everything.
Now we are back in counseling for that as well as other issues and his new therapist has basically said that we will probably have better results with some of our other issues we are dealing with, but with kids with stealing/food hoarding issues those things don't usually change. Usually it's embedded so deeply into them that it's really hard to change.
So I don't have any answers either, only sympathy. Thankfully with our son he is very lean despite all of his hoarding and sneaking. We've tested him several times for any physical/medical reasons behind it and everything has always come back normal.
We've also gotten evil looks from others who just don't understand. They think I'm crazy for worrying about "food issues" when he clearly looks healthy and even like he could put on some weight. They don't understand that he EATS ALL THE TIME. But regardless of how thin you may be, eating large amounts of anything just isn't healthy for you and it's not like we are depriving him of food.
He usually goes for all the sweets and carbs. He's eaten bags and bags of ice cream mix (meant for our ice cream maker), crystal light packages, just hand fulls of sugar straight from our sugar jar, even our powdered sugar. He's eaten a large box of fiber one bars all at one sitting, bags full of easter/Halloween candy, whole cartons of Ice Cream, boxes and boxes of crackers/cereal etc.
We too are on a tight budget. We are a family of 8. It feels like such a "selfish" disease. The food and treats I buy and make are meant to be used for meals/treats for the whole family. Yet he is the one who ends up eating it all before anyone gets a chance to. Even when he knows I bought it for a special occasion or when another kid got something special.
I try not to let it get between us because I feel him feeling loved and cared for is more important than my need to control or teach proper eating habits. I've learned to accept it to some extent but what really bothers me is when I see it affecting his other relationships or school. I know one way or another it will catch up to him if he doesn't learn to control that need/insecurity/craving that he has. I worry about his future and don't want him kicked out of school or locked up for something like this.
Our son also scarfs down food. He used to be really bad at it. We worked really hard with him to learn to slow down but if he's not paying attention he will resort back to it. He would seriously pack his mouth so full with each bite he could barely close it then keep trying to stuff more in before he even finished chewing and swallowing.
After focusing so much on slowing down I did notice that he would eat a lot less or much slower especially in front of other people. Then leave his hoarding and stuffing his face for more private times when others weren't watching or when he was sneaking it. He learned to feel ashamed of it. Which kind of made it worse because then he had more motivation to hide it and sneak it.
I wonder if that might be part of the reason why your daughter is so hungry when she gets home. Because she has hidden it all day by barely eating but when she feels more safe and secure at home she packs it in.
I know my son does feel ashamed when he "gets caught". He hates that he feels like he has no control over himself. He wants to build trust and knows there are consequences but in the moment he just goes with that primal need and craving and gives into it.
sak9645
The first thing to remember is that you should NEVER get involved in food wars; they're battles that parents NEVER win.
When a child comes home with food insecurities, the best thing to do is let him/her access food 24/7 and ignore it. He/she will eat like crazy -- anything and everything -- for a few months, and when he/she feels more confident that there will always be enough food, he/she will gradually turn into a more selective, less food obsessed child.
You can set some ground rules. As an example, you can tell him/her that he/she can take anything from YOUR fridge and cupboards, but that he/she cannot take food from other people's homes or lunchboxes, or there will be consequences. You can tell him/her that he/she can eat anything he/she wants, but must be seated at the table to do so -- no squirreling away food in his/her room, for example. You can buy only healthy foods, but let him/her have one unhealthy snack a week -- for example, taking him/her to the ice cream store or letting him/her choose a candy bar in the supermarket.
Often, post-adoption food obsessions subside once a child feels sure that there will always be enough food and once he/she is comfortable in his/her new home. But, sometimes, you will need to get some professional help, usually if there is more to the story than food obsession -- for example, if the child is also lying a lot, trying to harm a sibling, being defiant with you, etc. He/she may have a mental health issue such as attachment disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, etc.
Sharon
I get that. I do. I understand that's why she is the way she it BUT how does a person afford to allow the child to stuff themselves silly 24/7 and hope that in a few months of $1000 grocery bills, she's cured? That's what we did in the beginning because we didn't know better. So then we started with those very same rules only to turn it into a control battle. If there are rules, then she will break them.
She is now at her unhealthiest. She went crazy this summer with food. I am at my last straw. I have failed completely. I broke down and had all access from food removed, short of spices. Everything is locked. Her therapist told us to go back to community food and not have separate food. So we did. And we talked to her about sharing, and why we were changing things. In a week and a half a 60 count box of granola bars was gone. She was taking sticks of butter and putting it on kettle corn and toast. I was running out of everything, milk, cheese, stuff I bought for recipes. Ridiculous. Then after locking everything up, she was left home for a half day where I forgot to lock up the master bedroom and she got into our dresser, found the keys, stole some food and lied about it. On another day, one in which I could swear I locked the master bedroom, (no summer camp, it closed) she got in there again and stole more food. She broke several rules here, our room being off limits, (for good reason, not just the keys, but adult products which are locked, guns, which are locked, etc. but since she has found where we keep the keys,...) stealing food, I bought her lunch on the half day and made her a lunch on the full day she stayed home, and cooking, which is not allowed when an adult in not home, only microwave use. SHE'S ALMOST 15! And now I have to take her to work with me because summer camp is closed and I have no where she can go during the day. I am incapable of helping her. I have tried really hard in the last two months to help her with her attachment by providing all her meals for her and making sure she had enough. I have been spoiling her with treats too on occasion. She still continues to steal food. She rejects what I make for her even though it was what she asked for. I don't have what it takes to successfully help her with her food issues. I lost my patience. I really lost it. I am at my wits end. I keep trying to justify my reactions but I know that nothing we've been doing has been helping her. It's only been addressing the symptoms and the root of the issue. Her therapist is young and inexperienced and hasn't really addressed the issue. I want to enroll her in OA but there isn't a teen group in our area. On top of that back to school shopping and nothing fits. Nothing from last year fits anymore, and nothing she likes at the stores come in her size. I don't know what to do anymore, all I know is that I can't keep spending a fortune on groceries, we are on a tight budget and back to school expenses have hit us hard. And I can't justify allowing her health to continue to decline. She loves sports and can't or won't participate anymore. She want to be in cheer and won't try-out.
If you have tried everything you can, and it's not working, then it's time for a medical approach. There are excellent eating disorders programs out there, and they are not only for anorexia or bulimia. The good programs assess a teen in terms of physical, mental, and emotional issues, and design a program for him/her. It may involve inpatient care, gradually move to partial hospitalization, and so on.
The eating programs may or may not take your insurance, though, so be prepared to take out a loan, if necessary; it may be the best investment you have ever made. On the other hand, remember that, if there are psychiatric issues, there may be relapses and additional stays -- but wouldn't you find a way to pay for them if, instead of having an eating disorder, your child had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Or a metabolic disorder that caused some disturbing behaviors?
Unfortunately, when making a decision to have or adopt children, we often forget to "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." If your biological child wound up having a condition that needed frequent trips to a world-class pediatric hospital, might you not consider moving to be near one, even if it meant leaving a town that you loved, finding a new job, making new friends, etc.? If you adopted a child of another race and you lived in a town where the only people of his/her race were the folks who worked as dishwashers in the restaurants and the folks who were in the papers for gang activity, wouldn't you consider moving to give him/her better role models and opportunities to learn the positive things about his/her heritage?
My guess is that your child will need long term psychotherapy, possibly beginning with a hospital stay and involving some family therapy. Find a place where the staff understand adoption issues.and understands that the problem is not just eating like a longshoreman because your child is a teenager. There may be abandonment and grief issues. There may be biochemical issues. There may be anxiety and depression. And so on.
Sharon
If you have tried everything you can, and it's not working, then it's time for a medical approach. There are excellent eating disorders programs out there, and they are not only for anorexia or bulimia. The good programs assess a teen in terms of physical, mental, and emotional issues, and design a program for him/her. It may involve inpatient care, gradually move to partial hospitalization, and so on.
The eating programs may or may not take your insurance, though, so be prepared to take out a loan, if necessary; it may be the best investment you have ever made. On the other hand, remember that, if there are psychiatric issues, there may be relapses and additional stays -- but wouldn't you find a way to pay for them if, instead of having an eating disorder, your child had schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Or a metabolic disorder that caused some disturbing behaviors?
Unfortunately, when making a decision to have or adopt children, we often forget to "hope for the best, but prepare for the worst." If your biological child wound up having a condition that needed frequent trips to a world-class pediatric hospital, might you not consider moving to be near one, even if it meant leaving a town that you loved, finding a new job, making new friends, etc.? If you adopted a child of another race and you lived in a town where the only people of his/her race were the folks who worked as dishwashers in the restaurants and the folks who were in the papers for gang activity, wouldn't you consider moving to give him/her better role models and opportunities to learn the positive things about his/her heritage?
My guess is that your child will need long term psychotherapy, possibly beginning with a hospital stay and involving some family therapy. Find a place where the staff understand adoption issues.and understands that the problem is not just eating like a longshoreman because your child is a teenager. There may be abandonment and grief issues. There may be biochemical issues. There may be anxiety and depression. And so on.
Sharon