My 16-year-old daughter has lost a lot of weight. She eats 1500 calories a day; I can’t get her to eat any more. She exercises 4 times a week an hour at a time and hasn’t had a period for 3 months. Is it because she’s not eating enough or is it the change in her body and it will come back? Is she eating enough calories?
Peter Doyle, PhD responds:
I can certainly see why you have concerns about your daughter and her weight loss. Although consumption of 1500 calories is not alarmingly low, nor is her exercise regimen outside the norm for an active teenager, the other factors you list here suggest something more serious may be going on. Anytime an otherwise healthy 16 year-old girl stops menstruating, it is best to have her evaluated by her physician. There are a number of reasons she may have lost her period, but it is entirely possible that it is a direct result of the weight loss and caloric restriction. The body needs to have a certain percentage of fat in order to menstruate and it may be that your daughter has lost enough body fat to disrupt this process. In addition, you mention that you cannot get her to eat more. I will assume that you have made efforts in this area and explained your concerns to your daughter. Refusal to eat what a parent wishes can be part of the normal process of adolescents establishing their independence, but given the context of this situation it sounds like this may be a more eating disorder-related action. The answers to your specific questions about why she has lost her period and whether she is eating enough to stay healthy for her body size are questions best answered by your physician. If the outcome of such a visit indicated no medical reason for her loss of menses and weight loss, you will want to seek help from a mental health professional who has expertise in treating eating disorders.