Relationships & Divorce
Relationships & Divorce
Dieting with My Daughter
While losing weight on Keto, I gained a stronger relationship with my daughter
Dieting with your daughter, especially a teenage one, is about as sticky a situation as a mom can get herself into because, let’s face it, it probably won’t end well, especially for you. Weight is pretty much as high up there as you can get on the sensitivity scale (pun intended) for women of any age. And a teenage girl is far more sensitive than the average Jane.
No one, including me, likes to be on the receiving end of some meddling know-it-all, even (especially) if it’s from your mother who loves you. Unwelcome advice to eat healthier and cut back on sweets makes the recipient of that advice only want to get away from you more so they can do the exact opposite.
So in early 2018, when my then 17-year-old daughter, who had been struggling with her weight, told me she was going to start keto — a high fat, low carb diet — I was hungry for details. At the time, I knew little about it. But after getting up to speed, I learned that the way our bodies work is to burn the carbohydrates we eat first. When there are no carbs left to burn, our livers release ketones, which burns fat.
The keto diet’s purpose is to eat fewer carbs and go into ketosis, the state of releasing ketones for an extended period. That way, we can burn more fat. Keto followers eat only about 20 “net carbs” per day. Net carbs are total carbohydrates minus fiber. Since the body can’t digest fiber, it doesn’t count toward the number of carbs that can cause an insulin response, which will keep your body from going into or staying in ketosis.
As logical as the science sounded, I was still skeptical. To my 46-year-old gradually expanding waistline, a menu that dictated my daughter eat foods like bacon and cheese but avoid fruit didn’t seem healthy. And it didn’t sound like it could work. But as the weeks passed, my daughter reported weight loss, and I noticed she was getting visibly slimmer. I had a few extra pounds hanging around my hips from the holidays so I started the keto diet, too.
The result? First and foremost, weight loss. That was what I had hoped for and sort of expected, given keto’s popularity. But what I didn’t anticipate was how much my relationship with my daughter would change. We began depending on each other like girlfriends rather than like mother and daughter.
My daughter looked to me more as a contemporary than as her mom. When we went out for dinner, she wistfully stared at the bread on the table. Since I could see by the expression on her face she felt torn between her desire to eat a roll and her determination to lose weight, I gently moved the basket away and reminded her of the progress she had already made. That gave her a renewed sense of confidence to stick with the plan.
The strange part for me was that as I struggled to acclimate to the keto diet’s demanding restrictions, I sought moral support from my daughter. When I craved sugary fruit-filled Greek yogurt and my beloved vanilla coffee creamer, my daughter talked me down. She reminded me of the benefits of opting for plain whole milk yogurt and regular half-and-half. With her help, I was able to pursue weight loss and improved health. Over time, I missed my sugary treats less and less.
To fill the void that our favorite high-carb foods left in our hearts (and bellies), my daughter and I collaborated on keto-friendly recipes. Some, such as cauliflower “mac” and cheese, worked, while others, such as the cocoa powder and cream mixture substitute for hot chocolate, didn’t. Some of the recipes were technical failures but they were successful in strengthening our bond.
For us, keto was more than a diet: it became a lifestyle — a shared one. It inspired us to spend more time together. When the weather warmed, we walked to get some light exercise and burn additional fat. We talked about everything from work to friends to our philosophies on life; it was a great way to get to know each other better and a lot of fun.
My daughter is not quite grown up yet, but she’s not a little kid anymore either. Spending time with her as a “ girlfriend” made me see her in a new light. She will always be my little girl who wore her hair in pigtails, but dieting together made me begin seeing her as an individual with a distinct personality and set of beliefs. Our understanding of each other as people and as friends, not just as parent and child, deepened.
I am glad I dieted with my daughter. I lost 10 pounds and she has since lost 45. But, much more important than that, I gained a companion who now knows me on multiple levels; she did the same.