Dear Amy:

I am the mother of a pretty 15-year-old girl.

Over the past two years she has gained about 15 pounds, and I know that she doesn't like it. Her clothes are very tight.

How can I get her to realize that she has poor eating habits? She eats quickly, eats large portions and makes poor food choices.

I don't want to nag because that only creates tension in our house. My husband says to leave her alone, that she will have to come to this realization on her own.

As parents, we are trying to set good examples by eating our meals together and taking our time, not rushing through meals.

My daughter is an honor student and plays basketball, but she huffs and puffs a lot and doesn't play much. She is the biggest girl on the team.

When she comes home from school, she is content to sit, eat and watch TV, or get on the computer. When I ask her to run with me or hit some tennis balls, she gets mad.

How do we turn this around without picking at her to exercise and eat healthier?

Worried and WonderingAt 15, your daughter is still growing and changing. It's natural for a mom to worry, but your job should be to set the stage for healthy eating and good habits -- not to nag her about her size and shape. Nagging doesn't work.

Take your daughter on a shopping trip so she can choose clothes that she finds flattering and that fit her. Do not comment on how things fit, but encourage her when she does find clothes that she feels good in.

Encourage your daughter to be involved in school activities that suit her. If she continues to enjoy basketball, then great -- but she may also want to try out for the school play, mentor younger children or write for the school newspaper.

She should be too busy to come home from school and veg on the couch, eating before dinner.

At mealtime, turn off the TV, light candles and eat leisurely. Don't police your daughter's eating. Don't focus on dieting. Talk about your day. Eat well.

One of my favorite books about eating is "Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think" by Brian Wansink, PhD (Bantam, 2006). This is not a diet book. Wansink is a researcher who conducted ingenious studies on meal portions. He shows how something as simple as the size of our plate influences how much we eat.

Dear Amy:

A letter from "Torn (Over) Letter" was from a son who wondered if he should open a letter that his mother gave to him -- to be opened after her death. He was worried about what might be in the letter.

Maybe "Torn" should give it to a trusted friend, relative or clergyman to open so that they can then inform him whether he should "read it now," "read it as she requested" or "drop it in the shredder."

He can have peace of mind without the pain.

Faithful ReaderI have received some fascinating mail from people who have received letters with instructions that the letter should be opened after the death of the writer. Most decided to read the letters early and were glad that they had.

Your suggestion is excellent.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2007 by the Chicago Tribune

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