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Woman Wonders If She’s Wrong For Secretly Feeding Her Neighbor’s 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Is Always Hungry And ‘Under Fed’

Whether societal pressures or otherwise, many of us tend to fixate on our weight and how we look. For some, this manifests itself in healthy ways, such as eating well and exercising regularly. For others, however, disordered eating and exercising habits take over as we combat our fears of gaining weight or not looking a certain way. This is dangerous behavior for adults but becomes even worse when it affects our children. 

On the popular Reddit forum Am I The Asshole a woman wrote about her neighbor’s child. The original poster (OP) is questioning whether or not it is wrong of her to feed her neighbor’s daughter when they aren’t feeding her enough. This is her story

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Is It Wrong To Feed My Neighbor’s Underfed Child?

OP starts off her story by explaining how she is completely baffled as to how she could possibly be the wrong person in the situation. A mother herself, she understands how important it is to feed your children properly so they can grow and develop well. She also understands the importance of encouraging a healthy lifestyle, but not focusing on weight and body image to build proper self-esteem. Unfortunately, her neighbors don’t seem to feel the same way. (1)

Her next-door neighbors have a 13-year-old daughter, which is around the same age as OP’s two daughters. The parents are some kind of health and fitness influencers who not only maintain a very strict diet and exercise regimen themselves, but they force their young daughter to follow it, as well. They even put her through bi-weekly weigh-ins to make sure she is not gaining weight.

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Helping A Child In Need

The girl, named Nina, is friends with her daughters. She comes over to eat at OPs house and occasionally shower, too. This is because her parents only believe in showering once a week, even if Nina is on her period (which only lasts two days) or is sweaty. The poor thing is always hungry, so she comes over to eat around three times each week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

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“I am not feeding her junk, but actually healthy meals like rice, vegetables, curry, grilled chicken, stews, fish, salads, etc. Just regular lunches and dinners. She eats at my house up to three times a week (but sometimes less and sometimes more) and my daughters often bring her snacks when they spend time with her. There are no allergies or health related issues as to why they are restricting her food intake other than a fear of her being overweight.” OP wrote.

OP also clarifies that she has contacted child services but they have not done anything. She explains that currently Nina is about five feet tall and weighs about 86 pounds. In her last weigh-in right before Christmas, she had gained about six to eight pounds since the last one a month prior. Her parents freaked out and began putting a lot of pressure on her as to why. That’s when Nina finally broke down and told her parents everything.

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The Confrontation

When Nina’s parents found out that OP was giving their daughter extra food, they came to the house very angry. The minute OP opened the door, the parents were irate and yelling angrily. OP’s husband had to come to manage the scene and calm Nina’s parents down. He told them that he promised the family wouldn’t feed Nina anymore. With that, the parents left. OP, however, is not convinced that she should stop feeding the child.

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“I don’t think I should stop. If a kid is hungry shouldn’t they be fed? Shouldn’t that kid be allowed just to rest and not constantly be doing a million sports and exercises before they can just be allowed to unwind?” questioned OP.

Teaching Healthy Habits To Children

Yes, it is important to teach and encourage healthy habits in our children. One of the best ways to do that, as well, is through example. That much, OP’s neighbors have right. Where they have failed in doing so in a healthy way that promotes body positivity, confidence, and health. Instead, they have fixated on actual body weight and are teaching their daughter that your value lies in what you weigh and nothing more. They are also teaching her that you have to “earn” food and rest, and that exercise is something you do out of fear or hatred of your body rather than love.

Teaching your children healthy habits without fixating on body weight or size is not as complex or difficult as it seems. First of all, you yourself need to model these behaviors. Eating healthy, balanced meals, exercising regularly without being excessive about it, and modeling proper body talk to your children. This means avoiding (at least in front of your kids) saying things like (2):

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  • I can’t eat that – it will make me gain weight!
  • Ugh, I have to go to the gym otherwise I’ll get fat/won’t lose weight
  • These pants make me look fat
  • I can’t wear that, I don’t have the body for it

Get your kids involved in grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. That way they can be an active part of the process of deciding on and creating delicious, healthy meals. Do this as early as possible. This will help them develop a taste and a love for fruits and vegetables.

Have positive conversations about food and different diets, especially when questions come up. Avoid using food as a bribe, punishment, or reward. Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad”. Rather, discuss foods as ones that are important to eat daily, such as fruits and vegetables, and ones that are special, occasional foods, like sweets or fast food.

Never focus your conversations on weight or dieting. If you occasionally incorporate less-healthy foods into meal planning, such as pizza or otherwise, that is perfectly acceptable and teaches balance. Lastly, kids are naturally picky eaters. If they won’t eat something, don’t stress.

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Focus On What’s Important

When it comes to teaching kids healthy habits, just focus on what’s important. Help them develop a joy and a love for movement. Have them try out different sports and active activities until they find the ones they really like. Encourage them to try new things: Activities, classes, sports, as well as new foods.

Get them in the meal process from the planning to the shopping to the cooking. This will help them learn not only how to plan meals and cook, but also they will develop happy memories with you in the kitchen. They will develop a joy around cooking and experimenting with different ingredients. 

Do your best to have balance in your child’s habits. Don’t stress when things aren’t perfect or when your child doesn’t necessarily cooperate. Lastly, talk to yourself as you want your child to talk to themselves. This kind of positive self-talk will not only boost your own self-esteem, but it will teach your children to value themselves on things other than their weight or body shape. Rather, they will learn to take pride in their bodies and what their bodies can do, not how they look. And of course, if your child is hungry – let them eat!

Keep Reading: Man Gets Ultimatum From Vegan Girlfriend, Who Says It’s Her Or The Cat

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Sources

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  1. AITA if I continue to feed my neighbors kid.” Reddit
  2. How to Teach Children About Healthy Eating, Without Food Shaming.” NY Times

Attention: While many of these stories are interesting, and we would love to take their word for it, the content in this article was taken from an unverifiable source (i.e., a Reddit forum). As such, we cannot guarantee that these events truly happened in the way that they are described in the original source.

Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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