Ask Sam letter


To Sam

My parents make me exercise before I can eat - Is this OK?

Hi Sam, My parents say that I have to exercise in the morning to get breakfast and lunch. Today they sent me to school without breakfast, and because it didn't really affect me, they're threatening to send me to school without lunch either tomorrow if I don't exercise in the morning. They know that I don't have time to exercise in the morning unless I get up early and that I can't sleep until 11 o'clock in the night. I actually can't sleep, even if I go to bed early. They also call me fat, and say I'll get fatter if I don't exercise, but they don't count my waking, or PE in school. Is it OK for them to do that?

Ask Sam


Hi there,

Your parents are responsible for your health and wellbeing. It's their job to make sure you have the right amount of food to eat and that you’re healthy. It's okay for them to encourage you to exercise and stay active, but it's not okay to stop you from eating if you don't. They should be providing meals for you every day, no matter what else is happening.

What your parents are doing to you is emotional abuse and neglect. Sometimes parents might not realise that what they are doing is abuse, but it doesn't change the fact that it's not okay.

Emotional abuse is when someone puts you down, calls you names or makes you feel bad about yourself. By calling you fat, your parents might make you feel pressured to look a certain way or make you feel ashamed of your body. It's not okay for anyone to do that. Everyone's bodies come in different shapes and sizes. There's no right or wrong way to look and while it's good to be healthy, this means different things for different people.

Neglect is when you aren’t getting the important things you need at home – like love, support, clean clothes and enough to eat or drink. By denying you meals, your parents are stopping you from getting the food you need to grow. It's never okay for them to not feed you as a punishment. Whether they think you deserve to be punished or not - it's always wrong.

To change things at home, it would help to talk through what’s happening with someone you trust. It can be a big step to tell someone what’s happening. You don’t have to deal with this alone. You could try talking to a Childline counsellor first – they’ll be able to listen and help you decide what to do next. You could also talk to someone at school - like a teacher or an adult trust. Childline has lots of advice about how to ask an adult for help.

I hope this letter has helped and I'm really glad you chose to share this with me.

Take care.


Need help straight away?

You can talk privately to a counsellor online or call 0800 1111 for free.

Ask me a question

You can ask me about anything you want, there's nothing too big or small. I read every single letter but I can only answer a few each week. My replies are published here on my page.

Write me a letter