Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is Your Tween Hiding Her Lunch? by Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, CEDRD

REAL GRANDMOM ASKS: My 11 year old granddaughter is hiding her sandwiches and lunchables that are packed for her lunch in her room; sometimes before she even leaves for school. She takes a bite out of the sandwich or lunchable and puts in back in the container and seals it up, then hides it in her room. She doesn’t have an explanation for this and you can tell she is embarrassed when you talk to her about it. None of the food is new or disliked, that is why this is such a puzzle to us. My daughter is going bonkers over this and I simply don’t know how to advice her. Maddie has hidden evidence of “sneaked” food before when she was very young but this is a new behavior.

What do you think?


Debbie A., a perplexed Grammy


Thank you Debbie for your heartfelt question.  I am sure many other grandparents and parents share in your sincere concern for both their daughters and their  granddaughters. There are a few things you can do without alarming your granddaughter. Be sure to keep this a confidential as possible. It is  a very sensitive subject and privacy will help to ensure your granddaughter’s privacy and thus minimize any shame or embarrassment. I will answer the question directed at a mom (or dad) since mom (or the primary caregiver) will need to do the follow through.

In general when any tween is hiding food, consider checking in with the school nurse or guidance counselor (in private) to see if your tween is:

A)   Eating a different type of food at school?

B)   Eating any lunch at school?

C)   Attending lunch at school (some students hide during the lunch period to avoid social anxiety, bullying or to enable skipping the meal for restriction purposes)?

This will give you a better idea of what is happening for your daughter.  There are many things to consider such as is your child:

A)   Embarrassed to bring a home packed lunch?

B)   Perhaps your child doesn’t like the way their food smells?

C)   Perhaps your child is uncomfortable with their changing tween body?

D)   Has anyone said anything to your tween to make them feel shameful of their body?

E)   Is your child restricting their intake in effort to gain a false sense of control due to changes in friends, family, school…?

F)    Is your tween newly aware of her body and thus restricting her intake to prevent it from maturation?

Next and most importantly, sit down with this wonderful child and let them know you are there to listen. Let them know you promise not to be angry (if you truly do) and can help to support them. Validation is the most important piece. Moms don’t need to solve every problem rather we just need to listen.  Tell your tween you love them and are there for them when they feel ready to share. Giving your tween an unbiased outlet and a few hugs may get them to be honest with you.

If your tween is not ready to confide, you can also offer to take the tween food shopping to see if that helps to resolve the issue. This may give you a better sense of what is going on if your tween actually takes you on the offer.

If the issue continues, it is best to have your tween see a Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (therapist specializing in eating disorders) or a Certified Eating Disorder Registered Dietitian (RD specializing in eating disorders). This accreditation is only given to experts trained in the  prevention and treatment of eating disorders by the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (

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