Teens & Preteens Eating Too Much

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  • Eleven year old girl is overeating

    (24 replies)

    Hello, my wonderful pre-teen likes food too much and frequently eats too much food at nearly every meal. She doesn't balance it with exercise and I know she feels bad about herself. I can't seem to say anything right to teach her and/or support her and I can't monitor/regulate it all. I don't want to argue about serving sizes and seconds and I worry she feels judged and/or criticized and/or controlled when it comes to these requests. Besides making sure we don't have too much junk in the house, does anyone have any books / podcasts / other materials for her and/or me that might be helpful? Hoping she learns to regulate herself but she's having a very hard time. Thank you.

    I would recommend you stop commenting on her food completely. Unless her pediatrician is concerned, then you should not be focusing on this during this age. If her pediatrician is concerned, then let her lead the conversations and stick strictly to her advice. I mean this with all respect and empathy, but I am worried that you focusing too much on this is making the problem worse, now and in the future. She almost certainly does feel judged. I would recommend some books for you to read on how to balance the tough job of raising an almost-teen girl. It's not easy! Here is one: https://www.amazon.com/Parenting-Teen-Girl-Communication-Connection/dp/1...

    Kudos to you for supporting her developing healthy eating habits and not feeling judged! Maybe just get rid of all the junk food in the house (instead of aiming to have not "too much"); tell her you are embracing a new healthier diet (i.e. it's not about her) and have an unlimited supply of apple slices, carrot sticks and other healthy things she can snack on endlessly available. I find it way easier to just tell my kids we don't have any ice cream than to try to limit how often and how much they eat when it's in the freezer. You can always support a local ice cream shop when it's time for a treat. If it's meals and not desserts that are an issue try making more veggies / vegan food. Or some other cuisine where you don't have to worry so much about portion control because it's always healthy to eat more broccoli and whole grains. 

    Hi, I'm sorry you are in this situation. Food and body issues with girls is so tricky -- I am dealing with the opposite issue with my almost 13 year old, and we think it stems from depression. I don't have any advice specifically about overeating, but I wonder if you've talked to your daughter's pediatrician? She might have some good suggestions and insight. Our pediatrician recommended the book Untangled, by Lisa Damour. I've found it very, very helpful -- in particular, the first 3 or 4 chapters are pertinent to this age group (later chapters will come in handy when they are older). Best wishes to you and your family.

    First of all, kudos to you for not wanting her to feel judged and/or criticized. I started overeating when I was 11 yo (6th grade), right around the time when I started menstruating. My parents made a big deal out of it. To the point of offering me money to lose weight! I know they meant well, but it led to lifetime body dysmorphia issues, including a period of bulimia during my college years.

    If you haven't talked with her pediatrician already, I would recommend doing so. Maybe this is puberty-related, or maybe there are stressors going on in her life that are causing her to overeat. But if her pediatrician clears her for a balanced eating program, I highly recommend Weight Watchers for teens. I participate in Weight Watchers (now called WW) for adults, and it's been a game changer. The app is easy and fun to use, and I've learned so much about the real science of healthy eating and weight loss. The teen program puts more emphasis on healthy eating rather than weight loss, in order to support their growing minds and prevent body dysmorphia.

    Best of luck to you and your girl! Making sure she knows she is loved just the way she is right now is the most important thing.

    Hi there, I can hear how much you care about your pre-teen and want her to live a healthy lifestyle. So you will be interested to know that promoting diet culture and focusing on a child's weight is actually incredibly detrimental to their emotional and mental health. It can set her up to have an eating disorder and a negative relationship with food and her body for the rest of her life. She is eating a lot because she is growing. As a pre-teen, she needs to gain weight - fat specifically - to use as fuel for growing into a teen. The way that she will learn to regulate her food consumption is by 1) learning to trust her own body and the signals her body is telling her, 2) being modeled what regulated eating looks like by trusted adults, and 3) having support to counter the idea that girls must be a certain size to be worthy or valuable. Please, for the sake of your wonderful pre-teen, reconsider your approach to food in your relationship with your daughter. 

    Here are some articles that may be a helpful starting point:






    Sorry to hear about this. My son enjoyed food very much but I definitely did not want him to self conscious but he was definitely gaining a lot of weight. We found out recently he has inattentive adhd and exercise and diet are one of the best things to put them on so that they don't have the highs and lows of sugar crashing so we put him on a keto diet and I relearned how to cook his faves or new recipes so.he can still eat a lot. He has been on it for 6 months and lost a lot of weight and he rejoined the swim team. I was a swimmer in high-school and spending anytime over an hour in a pool 5 days a week really does wonders to your body. In 6 months he has lost 30 lbs and leaned out and he so much more confident. I'm glad it came more naturally than making him on a diet because it really has a huge effect on his adhd. You can substitute monk fruit sweetner or serve and almond flour in your baking etc. There's a ton of info on keto out there. It wa a shit for me because I was a vegetarian for almost 6 years and now we eat mostly animal products but the weight and energy had been profound. it has changed him and its also curbed his appetite and he's finding he's not snacking randomly but when he eats he is actually full. The downside is it is expensive and time consuming. I meal prep a lot and buy a lot of groceries so it is expensive esp. When we don't do anytime processed and try to be organic when we can.

    We had the same issue with my son. We had Kaiser and our pediatrician referred us to a program they had at the time that was (surprisingly) very helpful. It was an afternoon workshop for parents and kids with a doctor and a nutritionist. They taught us about serving sizes and nutrition, and broke down the parents’ responsibilities (to provide healthy food) and the kids’ responsibilities (to resist extra treats/make good choices). At the end, they had us set some goals and the pediatrician tracked my son’s progress in future appointments. It was so helpful to take it off the parent-child dynamic. Good luck!

    If you focus on providing super healthy (and yummy), light foods, salads and veggies, then she can eat as much as she wants!

    No advice, just wanted to share that I have a similar issue with my 11 yo daughter. She overeats, refuses to exercise and accuses me of “fat shaming” whenever I try to talk about health and healthier choices. I’m curious to see other people’s responses and suggestions. 

    Oh this is hard and I feel for you. Of course as a parent we want our kids to be happy and healthy and we know that being in the bigger body in this society is not easy. I know that your desire to help your daughter eat less comes from a place of love. And it seems like you already know that if you try to monitor or regulate how much she is eating it will not work and will likely make things worse. First, it’s important to acknowledge that increased appetite and weight gain is normal and expected in late childhood and early puberty. When this happens, bodies are doing what they are designed to do for developmental reasons. This is normal. Unfortunately it’s also the case that kids at this age experience insecurity about their changing bodies. Our choices as parents with regard to dieting, weight management, self-talk, and judging of bodies tell them all they need to know about whether their body is acceptable to us or not.  Shame does not have a positive correlation with health or intuitive eating. As early as preschool kids absorb the message that fat is bad and that they can’t trust their own bodies to tell them when they are hungry and when they are full. Some kids gain weight at the onset of puberty and end up thin a few years later and stay that way. Others reach maturity in a bigger body. Body diversity is normal. Diets don’t work (at least 95% of them anyway, and mostly ultimately lead to weight gain) and thinness does not equal health. We all fail our kids when we neglect to teach them that body diversity is not something for humans to overcome, that all bodies are good bodies, and that all bodies are equally deserving of unconditional love. I’m in the early stages of my own education on this topic and I’m coming at it both as a parent and as a woman who has dieted since being a teenager. The good news is that there are tons of amazing resources on this. There is a great book called How to Raise an Intuitive Eater by Summer Brooks and Aimee Severson which covers a lot of these issues. I also recommend you check out Virginia Sole-Smith’s newsletter Burnt Toast on substack and listen to her podcast.  She has a ton of published articles as well (and a great book). The podcast Food Psych hosted by Christy Harrison is also excellent, as is her book Anti-Diet. I also think that the work that Lexie and Lindsay Kite are doing promoting body image resilience is pretty awesome and would benefit any pre-teen or teen girl (as well as women of any age). Check out their book More Than a Body. And be kind to yourself- this is not easy and if you are anything like me and most of the people I know, requires doing a lot of unlearning and challenging of deeply-held beliefs. 

    You might want to listen to “The Maintenance Phase” to avoid some pitfalls. 

    As a grown woman who also loved eating as a child, I believe that far greater long-term damage can be done by encouraging a child to lose weight than by her being overweight. There is already huge societal pressure for girls to be skinny, and disordered eating is more common in girls and women who diet as a child. I believe allowing her to listen to her body and showing her that you love and support her no matter what she looks like are the best approach. 

    I'm not sure I have much advice but plenty of sympathy. The best we can do is model healthy eating habits and try to get them involved in activities that promote exercise and good health. Can you get her interested in riding her bike? Rock climbing? Dancing? Martial arts? Any kind of movement helps! Genetics are also a huge piece of the puzzle - did this happen to you or your partner/partner's family? Some pre-teens go through this 'chubby' growing stage and emerge just fine, like toddler growth spurts. Our culture is so obsessed with weight and it's doubly hard on girls - just make sure you keep telling her how much you love her - I've found that reinforcing their inherent beauty is a big help eventually, so rather than criticize (which I understand you aren't) just try to let her know she is beautiful and hopefully she can internalize that as she continues to grow towards a healthier her. One last thought - I know for myself and my teen that doing some short fast (intentional or not) can help make you feel like your stomach has 'shrunk' and will keep you from overeating - just something like not eating until brunch on a weekend  - or taking a weekend hike where you don't finish until 1 or 2.....or having her drink a full glass of water before a meal - these things help. My unofficial theory is that as we start overeating we stretch out our stomachs, and then we just keep trying to fill it up! (be kind experts out there LOL) Good luck!!  You're not alone!

    I recommend checking out Ellyn Satter's work. She has a framework called Division of Responsibilities (DoR) that will help with this very issue! You can read about it in her book 'Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family' and she has a website that can be helpful. 

    Hi! How do you know she "eats too much" at nearly every meal? I would say there is no such thing as "liking food too much". Kids that age go through a growth spurt - and accordingly, they often grow "out" before they grow "up". My advice is to leave her alone. Your job is to provide the food. Her job is to decide whether she eats and how much she eats. Period. 

    You may find this page and the links on it helpful: https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-respons...

    I have a favorite podcast called "didn't I just feed you?"  it does not focus specifically on this issue.  It is 2 moms who are professional cooks who just talk a lot about recipes, cooking, test kitchen stuff, cookbooks and food in general.    At times a bit of a reach for me as an average jane home cook, but I still really like listening to them.  They mention food & body image but they don't dwell.  They keep it positive and steer toward being balanced, healthy and happy, which includes dessert.    

    Have you considered your kid might be on a growth spurt?  My kid acts like they have a hollow leg during those times, and can't seem to get enough ramen/pasta/mac & cheese, then is suddenly an inch taller with a return to more regulated eating.   I make sure to have some simple vegetables like bokchoy or frozen peas & corn  so my only comment is to say,  "fine, but add some veggies to it." 

    In my personal life, I have found a couple of things to be helpful.  One is to focus on making a colorful plate... we call it eating a rainbow.  I find it helps to improve overall satisfaction and also nutrition, but without too much thinking involved.  It can be fun to work with kids on that take them grocery shopping and ask for their help in choosing colorful things they would like to eat this way.   You can make rainbow combos for dinner plate, snack plate, lunchbox, and more.  The other is to brainstorm and keep in mind a short list of special foods feel like a treat but are also healthy.  (My top 2 are salmon or a well made kale salad, my kid is surprisingly happy about some favorite soups. Your things will be different.)  To be perfectly clear, I and my family eat plenty of not-so-healthy things, but when we decide to focus on eating better, starting with our healthy favorites or focusing on a colorful plate really helps. 

    I'm curious how you know she "likes food too much" and eats too much at every meal. What's wrong with liking food? It's one of the joys of life! Does she feel sick or physically uncomfortable afterward? Is she identifying that she feels like she can't control her eating? Or is the issue that you see her gaining weight? I think it can be helpful to really isolate the issue and whose issue it is, hers or yours. I would probably take a less direct approach in making sure we're communicating about how she's doing, if anything is bothering her, etc without connecting it to food, unless SHE connects it to food. Practically speaking, I think limiting junk food in the house or having equity rules like "everyone gets a first serving before anyone gets seconds" could help, or you could make less food for dinner so seconds aren't an option for anyone? Making sure everyone is doing active things together? Encouraging her to find activities she enjoys? If she likes preparing food maybe a cooking class? But personally I have found that scrutiny and criticism of what or how I eat (from parents and partners) has never helped and only hurt both my relationship to food and to them.

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I've heard good things about the Podcast "Food Psych" by Christy Harrison, and also "Body Kindness" and "Maintenance Phase." Maybe they would be useful for you or your daughter, or even to listen to together! 

    Hi! I'd recommend looking into the world of intuitive eating: book, podcast episodes, etc. It's all about building our skills in listening to our bodies and loving, rather than shaming, them. If you are on Instagram, you may also appreciate the @feedinglittles account.

    Just an observation but this post is super judge-y so if she feels judged at home I challenge you to look inward. We all have different body types and one is not better than another. She might not balance with exercise now, but maybe one day she will. I wasn't active until my 20s. She might need extra calories now and should be allowed to honor her body and choices. I see a post where you as her mother are sending the message to us that she and her body is bad and that's sad because she's getting that same message from you every day. I understand you're likely trying to come from the "right place" but you need to give her space to be who she is, not who you want her to be. Perhaps check out bodyimage_therapist on instagram or other positive body image sites out there to help guide you in your conversations with your daughter. I have two kids so I get that you want them be healthy but there isn't just one way or one body type to reach that goal. 

    Hi, when I was eleven I started to have this huge appetite and would come home from school each day and eat a huge sandwich with cold cuts and pickles and lettuce and mayo, plus a bag of chips and a bowl of ice cream. I was chowing down like crazy and was just always hungry. I got a little chubby and then had this huge growth spurt, probably like 6 inches of height in maybe 8 months, and thinned back to average and my appetite went back to "normal."  So it's possible your child is experiencing similar and her body is just getting ready for a growth spurt. I recommend against limiting quantity of food - just be sure to provide healthy meals with plenty of vegetables and whole foods and let her eat until she is full. I would assume if you make a point of monitoring it, that could lead her to feel bad or develop an unhealthy feeling about food. For not balancing it with exercise, can you do some active things as a family? If you're not a sporty household, even just doing a daily family walk after dinner or doing weekend things like mini-golf or having a picnic and frisbee at the park can be more active. Sorry, I know I'm not answering your question about books or podcasts, I just instantly thought about my experience when I was a preteen as soon as I saw your post!

    Hi! I was an 11 year old just like your daughter and in my case, I was over-eating as a coping mechanism for anxiety and the loneliness I experienced due to my parents' emotional neglect. It sounds like you're a deeply caring parent who's really attuned to your daughter (which is already a much better place than my parents were in), but - with respect - it also sounds like you are wanting her to be different than she is, which I imagine she picks up on - and is likely making it harder for her to self-regulate. It's clear you have the best intentions, and it's realy important not to operate from a place of fear of her weight, because that could make things worse. My parents restricted and hid sweets, which made my bingeing worse and sent me down a path of eating struggles for 20 years. Instead, I would focus on the needs behind this behavior (rather than trying to change the behavior itself) and try to meet those needs while also making sure that you're not restricting food, because restriction often leads to bingeing. What is leading her to eat more than she has in the past? Is it possibly a growth spurt? Could it be anxiety, depression, or self-esteem challenges? The data shows that that pandemic is creating a real mental health crisis for children right now, so I wonder if that's at play for her. 

    It sounds like your daughter (and possibly you too) could benefit from the support of a therapist, who can help her/you both understand what is beneath this behavior (which may also be a growth spurt or natural response to restriction/noticing you're worried about her eating and feel ashamed about that). The pre-teen years are such a formative time and eating disorders often crop up at this time, so I'd get some professional support for your daughter if at all feasible - but not with the lens of trying to change her/the way she's eating, but instead with the lens of trying to understand what is coming up for her and to support her. I also highly recommend checking out Ellyn Satter's Division of Responsibility for feeding/eating, which is an evidece-based way to help children build a healthy relationship with food: https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/child-feeding-ages-and-... 

    Best of luck to you and your family! 

    I had binge eating tendencies as a kid and I still struggle with it today (36.) I went through a period where I was bulimic. In retrospect I was clearly managing my "big feelings" about my parent's deteriorating marriage, then divorce, then puberty with food. I SO wish I had been able to talk to a therapist at the time who could have helped me learn new and productive ways of identifying my feelings and coping.

    I don't doubt this could be part of a growth spurt or developmentally appropriate hunger, but for the sake of your daughter please consider letting her explore her emotions and reactions with a therapist. The eating could be a clue into something else that's going on with her. Good luck. 

    You have received so many thoughtful responses here -- I'm heartened to see so many people advocating for intuitive eating, Ellyn Satter, etc. I was just like your daughter at 11, and relearning how to eat intuitively in my 20s rescued me from a very difficult decade of binge eating and bulimia. It all started with good-intentioned portion control and "eating healthy."

    I have a great mom and she did her best to help me navigate, but this is what I wish she would have known: It truly doesn't matter how tender, discreet, or tactful you aim to be. She will either eat in front of you, knowing that you accept her unconditionally as she learns to identify her own feelings around food. OR she will eat in secret. Period. She will learn to lie to you, and she will come to believe that your love and acceptance for her is tied to size of her portions or the size of her waist.

    As a woman in this world, there will be no shortage of diet partners, accountability buddies, weight loss groups, etc., that she will encounter. You do not need to perform this role. They will cheer for her when she loses weight and pity her when she gains it -- I hope YOU will be the person with whom she can simply exist and laugh and BE, through it all, while she finds her way. It can be a very difficult journey, but she must take it alone. All you need to do is love her unconditionally… and that is a hard enough job in itself! Because sometimes that will involve actively shaking off your own preferences and biases and expectations.  

    In a nutshell: Our relationships with our mothers are complicated, and our relationships with food and body image are complicated. You will both benefit by keeping those two subjects separate. Don't comment on any of it, and this most definitely includes comments that are meant to be positive.  

    Last thought: If she is eating beyond the point of fullness as you suspect, she probably IS feeling out of control, wishing she could eat less, and beating herself up over it. Instituting structure or restrictions around food may seem like the way to reclaim control, but unfortunately this can turn into an eating disorder faster than you can possibly imagine. I've written a lot about how this happened to me, in case it is helpful to read a first-person perspective. All the best to you and your daughter. xoxo



  • Hi BPNers - My husband and I disagree over food issues in our house.  We have two kids 14 and 12.  They both have ADHD and are not great decision makers and forget most everything (ie house rules, chores, etc) we tell/ask them.

    We monitor their food choices VERY closely.  They cannot go the fridge and just grab something.  They always have to ask - juice, granola bar, yogurt, sandwich, etc.  They have made bad choices in the past - eating straight sugar or sugary foods (cake, ice cream) at 6/7am, grabbing pizza at 10pm, eating other people's food or eating ingredients we needed for a meal.

    I'm much more - 'eat whatever you want within reason' and don't really care to monitor what they eat or when.  Problem is they have made bad choices in the past.  My husband is more 'ask us and we'll say yes/no'.  They always forget to ask and get 'in trouble'.  We have gone as far as locking all our cabinets and refrigerator so we don't have to police them.  I feel like a food Nazi - it doesn't feel good or healthy.

    I wonder what other parents do.  Do you care what your kids eat? or when?  Like eating a slice of pizza as dinner is being made?  or eating the cupcake you bought for yourself?  or eating the last yogurt/using all the milk and not telling you so you can buy more?

    We disagree in that I think we are too strict on them.  But I'm curious to hear if these 'issues' are in all households and you deal with them or ignore them or just don't care??

    Any insights greatly appreciated!

    Locking up the fridge and making them ask before they eat anything sounds pretty extreme for kids that age. I think you guys need to lighten up now that you have a young teen and an almost-teen.  You are risking making food into such a big issue that your kids are going to have issues with food.  I have a 15 year old ADHD kid and two older kids already past their teens. Here are a few things I know:

    1. Teens are hungry ALL the time.  You need to stock up on stuff.  Let them eat when they are hungry. They might need something to eat every 2 or 3 hours. Buy more yogurt. Have plenty of granola bars if they like those (my kids hated them after years of granola bars in their lunches.). Have tasty fruit on hand, like blueberries and grapes and bananas and other stuff that doesn't have to be cut up or washed or peeled. Pineapple and canteloupe wedges Bagels and tortillas and sliced bread should be plentiful and at hand. Protein too. Always have gallons of milk on hand. Teach them how to make quesadillas in the microwave, or scrambled eggs or omelets. Make extra food at dinner and keep leftovers in the fridge for them.
    2. As teens get more independence, you will have no influence over what they eat when they are not at home. This can mean they are buying a huge bag of candy on their way home from school every day and eating the whole thing in 5 minutes and disposing of the evidence. My high school freshman and all of his friends have the same thing for lunch every single day: pizza from the very disgusting Papa John's.  Here's my advice: make sure they get a lot of fruit and veggies at breakfast and dinner and don't worry about lunch and snacks. They will be fine!
    3. My ADHD kid is on meds that take away his appetite. You didn't say if your kids take meds, but my kid hardly eats anything between breakfast and dinner aside from the slice of pizza at lunch.  I make him a milk shake every day when he gets home from school with whole milk and a lot of ice cream, and I actually don't care that much what he eats because he likes fruits and vegetables and eats those at breakfast and dinner. 
    4. I totally understand the disagreement between parents and I feel your pain. I think it just goes along with co-parenting with another adult.  Everybody has their issues.  If it's really bad, think about couples counseling.

    My son is 17.  I have not had a major problem with him eating something that's needed to make dinner (he's eaten all the salad greens a couple of times) but he has finished off the milk at night despite the fact I've requested that he please leave a couple of spoonfuls for my tea in the morning. I threatened to wake him up to make him walk to the market, and that has gotten better.  Generally he can pretty much eat what he wants when he wants. He does make some choices I'm not crazy about (such as eating six bagels as his only food all day) and we discuss that.  He will ask around 5 what we are having for dinner, and decide what he wants to snack on based on my answer (e.g., a giant pastrami sandwich if we're having something he doesn't like, or an apple if we're having one of his favorites). His dad on the other hand is famous for eating ALL of the snack food in the house overnight, including snacks for my son's baseball game the next day, so both of us have taken to hiding things we don't want him to consume. Basically I think it is really hard to control.  And I think they need to have some freedom around their food choices by ages 12 and 14.  Can you have a middle ground? Like a shelf on the fridge where it is OK to take anything any time without asking, and a cupboard for treats like chips and cookies where you always have to ask.  And stick a postit note on the last milk carton that says "put this note on the counter when the carton is empty."  

    At their ages, making them ask for food is a really bad idea. They need to know that you trust them on some level, which it sounds to me that you don't trust them on any level. Perhaps give them more trust and responsibility and they will rise to the challenge. When my son was 13 he ate everything in the house, kids are just growing and hungry at this age. I left him fruit and sandwich makings and said he could eat all of that he wanted. I also got him an electric sandwich press which forced him to take more time between sandwiches. I also started tasking him with prepping for dinner, so he'd know which food were dinner ingredients and he wouldn't eat them, as well as knowing dinner would come faster if he helped. All teens/tweens have eaten sugar and pizza at whenever times, this is normal too.

    Our son (14) can fix himself a sandwich or some cereal, if he is hungry (and he does). Or he can grab some fresh fruit from the fruit bowl on the counter (yeah, I wish). He has to ask if he wants ice cream, cookies, chips or other treats. And he knows not to eat anything with dinner just around the corner or if something is someone else's treat.

    We are fortunate to have a second fridge, so anything I need for meal prep, usually is not in the main fridge in the kitchen, so doesn't accidentally get consumed.

    You could involve your kids in discussions about healthful eating and their needs. You didn't say if your children are normal weight or overweight, but trying to control their eating too much may result in eating disorders. I have painful memories of my childhood. I never liked the school lunches, so I would skip lunch. I was famished by 3PM, had no energy for after school sports, so went home to snack. By dinnertime I was not hungry. My mom would get angry that I didn't want to eat with the family dinner, so I would eat it even though I was not hungry. I got a little heavier as a teen (~10 lbs over) and my parents weren't happy with my weight and critiqued everything I ate and tried to restrict my intake. I felt it was controlling and I resented that they wanted to decide when and what I could eat. If I ate sweets, they thought I was "out of control". They resorted to hiding the snacks and desserts but still had them in the house because they wanted to eat them. It became a game: every time they left the house I would search the cupboards for the crackers, candy and cookies, and if I found them, I binged.  I would steal money from my mom's purse to buy candy and binge at friends houses.  This started a very bad cycle of eating disorders and body image problems. With weight gain, constant yoyo dieting from about age 15 until I was 25, I had a very crazy relationship with food, had no internal sense of what my body needed or was hungry.  I always felt I had to sneak to eat and rarely ate around other people. I became a "closet binger". I had roommates in college and I snuck their food. I felt guilty, but I had such a cue to sneak to eat whenever I was alone, even if it wasn't mine. I eventually founds some eating disorder therapy programs, got more in touch with my food needs, and exercised daily. Now I am in my 50s, have very good eating habits, I exercise daily, and am very fit and normal weight. With my own children I try to make sure food is not an emotionally charged topic   I want them to be in touch with their own needs and to be aware of nutrition. I make them good lunches, I ask them what they want for meals, and will even make everyone a different meal if necessary.  I keep only healthful food in the house, I let them eat at other than meal time if they need to, and if they aren't hungry for a meal, I don't make them eat. I don't buy stuff I don't want them to eat. I focus on good nutrition, being active, heathy and fit. Sure when they were younger they would eat sugar packets at restaurants and order sodas if we are out to dinner, so I suggest that they not have desert. On weekends my son has pancakes with chocolate chips and syrup, which I would prefer he didn't, but I am not going to make a big deal out of it. He sometimes buys candy after school and will admit it, but I don't make a big deal out of it or he's stop telling me. I had us all watch a documentary about sugar and the health effects.  After that my 14 year old decided to give up desserts for a while. I know it is hard when parents don't agree but I'd worry that the control will lead to eating disorders.

    In any case have at least some foods that they can eat whenever they want -- fruit, cut-up veggies, left-over pizza, crackers or low-sugar cereal. The bigger question is how much do you want to be involved at this stage -- could you explain/package ingredients you are planning on for the next couple of dinners and leave them be to eat whatever else is available. If they are eating well at meals, and within the normal BMI, just let it go. If not, think about restricting the food in the house to healthy choices, (ie. get rid of the juice and granola bars), instead of putting so much energy into restricting the kids.

    I think the answer that makes the most sense is to limit the temptation. How often do you need cake in the fridge beyond a birthday? How often is there pizza, as opposed to a bunch of veggies and protein that are waiting to be turned into a meal? I agree that the restrictions could contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food long-term. What happens when they go off to college or live on their own?

    I believe your husband has the right idea:  lock up the refrigerator and the cabinets -- especially at night -- and make them ask for food when they want it.  When you're dealing w ADHD kids, it's a whole different ball of wax when it comes to them being able to make healthy choices and control their impulses.  Our kid has ADHD (he's 9), and locking up the fridge actually helped him to regulate himself more effectively: he knows he must ask politely for access to certain food spaces, so it's good practice for him regarding many impulsive habits like speaking out of turn, pushing/pulling us to get what he wants, etc; we've seen improvements on all fronts once we locked up the fridge.  Moreover, he seems relieved that he no longer feels compelled to gorge himself on food when we're not around.  Of course there is always a fruit bowl on the countertop with fresh apples, oranges (we use the easy-peel "cuties" type) and bananas -- he can eat as much of those as he wants whenever he likes.  After his initial dismay when his father was installing the locks -- "Really Dad?? really!!?" -- he fell in line quickly.  We're all more relaxed now, and we make a big deal outta the fun we have enjoying ice cream (for instance) as a family while watching a movie or hanging out on the porch.  Our kid is thin/muscular and very athletic, so we've not been concerned w his weight.  But eating/binging impulses w ADHD kids is common, so better you exercise as much control as possible over them now, in hopes that the habits will be imprinted (somehow!) before they're off at college where they won't have the benefit of your oversight.  

    When my boys were grade-school age, I was strict about many things, including food. But by middle school (and now high school) I really changed gears and gave them a lot more freedom, sometimes more than I wanted to - partly to bring the level of conflict with my older teen down to a dull roar, but also to give them the chance to make "bad choices" while they are still at home/supported, so they don't go off to college/etc and have to suddenly navigate all that PLUS brand-new freedom to do things like eat junk food for breakfast.  For college kids this can be way too much of an all-at-once change.

    So while my older teen eats way too many carbs in a day (his "lunch" he takes to school is often crackers and chips, ugh), I close my eyes and trust that all those years of farm fresh veggies will come back around when they are older.  He is really bad about eating all the dessert in the house when no one is home.  I've adjusted my shopping to buy dessert in small amounts that we eat that night, or hide it, or buy cookie mix instead of cookies so it isn't as easy for him to snack on.  It makes me mad that he does this - no respect for others in the family.  But instead of fighting about it, I try to shake it off, and keep putting healthy things front and center in the fridge. 

    I do find when his friends are over playing video games I can put a big plate of cut up veggies, fruit, cold cuts, cheese, or just about anything out and they'll bring it back in empty 15 minutes later with a big thank you.   Hint - if you do need to hide things, I find putting them in the container labeled as something unappealing and pushing to the bottom/back of the fridge works like a charm. 

    14 and 12 sounds way too old for such food monitoring, in my view. They are both very likely making their own food choices (zags they should be!) during school and after; it won't be long before the 14 year old is around only at mealtime / sleeping time w high school just around the corner. High school goes by fast; next thing out know they're out of the house completely. I would say just do the best you can and model good choices / remind them of the poor consequences (weight, skin), and hope for the best. 

    Hi, I had a similar problem with my stepkids, so it was me being evil stepmonster on top of the food issues.  The best solutions that kept us all sane and cut down on the yelling:

    Establish a designated free-for-all shelf in the fridge.  Anything on this shelf can be eaten, no questions asked.  That way, the left overs for my lunch didn't disappear when step kid decided he wanted a midnight snack.  I ended up expanding this to buying a small dorm fridge (off Craigslist) and it became the kids/snack fridge.  Now my stepkids are grown, but when they come home, they still check out the snack fridge for anything yummy.

    Instead of kids snorfing up sugar laden snacks before dinner, I made a simple hors d'ouevre (sp?).  Think cut up fruit or vegetables with hummus or crackers and cheese.  In fact, this was one way I got stepkid #2, who hated vegetables, to eat some.  He was hungry before dinner was ready and apparently desperate, so he ate vegetables and fruit.  He even found some he liked!  <grin>

    First things first: Are your teens eating habits effecting their growth?  If yes, you likely need the support of professionals.  If no, you likely need to let go and be much less restrictive or risk development of eating disorders or increased behavioral problems.

    I have an almost 16-year-old son with ADHD and disordered eating.  When he was young, upon the advice of his pediatrician and dietician, we were very regimented about his eating - structured meal/snack times with foods acceptable to him portioned on the plate.  This was to address his highly restrictive eating, both quantity and quality/range as poor eating greatly effected his behavior and growth. 

    In late middle school, he worked with the dietician (experienced in kids like him) to come up with an eating plan he felt he could accept.  I followed the plan.  It adjusted with each visit.  At some point, he resisted and refused to go any more - reasonably so as it was becoming less helpful for a number of reasons.

    In high school, it has become important for him to own his choices around eating.  Mostly because he's away from home more often that not, but also because that's what's developmentally appropriate.  While his eating remains disordered, it is not longer effecting his growth or ability to engage in typical daily activities.  At home, he eats fairly nutritious foods because that's what we have in the house.  I make it easy for him, having a place in the refrigerator and pantry where foods he likes are readily available.  I minimize the amount of "junk" food in the house, but have become more flexible in buying prepared/packaged foods that I used to avoid.  I take him to the grocery store occasionally and give him general guidelines, but let him choose what he will eat.  For example: the guidelines are 1,000 calorie intake between getting up in the morning and end of school; no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving in any food/drink that is not a dessert; protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fruit/vegetable in each of the three main meals a day.  He eats a lot of dessert (mostly ice cream) late in the evening - all good, he needs the calories.  He eats a lot of junk/candy/soda away from home - that's fine, a few times he's felt horrible and gotten sick from it and is slowly learning to regulate himself.  We have a standing rule that regardless of what/when he eats away from home, he needs to eat a reasonable dinner at home, most nights of the week.

    If this has become a hot-button issue in the home to the point it is affecting your relationship with your husband, I highly suggest you discuss eating with your pediatrician (make a parent appointment) and consider engaging a good family therapist to help you navigate the waters.

    Good Luck.

    My 12 year old son with mild ADD and I just had a conversation about this today! I don't think you're being a Nazi but maybe, given their disabilities, by monitoring it you are trying to help them pause before making bad choices? But I know it's exhasuting. Just today my son said "Thank god for the medication! it helps me make better food choices sometimes". The developmental pediatrician said the over eating was a part of his stimulation seeking and while I appreciate my son's creativity, I wouldn't like his making his conconctions (brown sugar sauteed in butter with a little flour:"bread pudding, mom!") all the time. I try NOT to have things like cupcakes, cookies, large containers of chips or ice cream etc or they'll get eaten up. I know some parents have made a drawer full of snacks (nuts, fruit, granola, etc) marked so that their kids can eat these anytime. And signs posted on the things they should not eat to help them learn. Good luck.

    I suggest you keep no sugar sweetened food in the house: yoghurt, granola bars, cake, ice cream, etc. Also, no potato chips, pretzels, crackers or other processed foods. Then make sure there are plenty of healthy choices like carrots, apples, nuts, etc. Let the kids eat what they want. Go out for dessert once a week. 

    Can you stock mostly healthy foods and let them have at it? That might mean no cupcakes for you at home (you can still have your treats at work!). We don't have much junk food, unhealthy cereals, etc because we don't want them to be options for our kids or battle them over why the parents are allowed but not them. Also, we hope that the kids will eventually develop a taste for veggies and healthier foods. I noticed in college that some of my friends whose parents emphasized healthy eating would indulge in brownies and desserts like the rest of us, but they would also make healthier eating choices the rest the time and not tend to binge on junk food. They seemed to have a better understanding of nutrition and a lower tolerance for surviving on junk.

    Or maybe provide a designated area where your kids are free to grab food from (stock veggies, fruit, healthy leftovers, etc)? It seems like in the long run their having to ask you for food and even snacks may not foster independence and good eating habits when they eventually move out of your house. That being said, I don't have experience wth ADHD kids though...