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My Daughter Says That She's Fat

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Is your dear little girl already developing issues about her body? You're not alone.

girl looking in mirror

Single Mom Seeking: "I need help!" my single-mom friend e-mailed to me this week. She said that her 8-year-old daughter was in tears this evening after looking in the mirror.

"She told me that she hates the way she looks, because now her stomach is too fat!" my friend wrote. "She's not fat. What do I do?"

Yes, I know the stats about obesity and kids in our country, but that's not what this e-mail made me think about. This might hit close to home for you, too: How many tween and teen girls do you know who feel like they're overweight because they don't look "model thin"?

Still, this leaves Dr. Leah and me wondering: What should this mother tell her daughter?

She can repeat the most positive, affirming comments to her little girl ("You are so beautiful," "You are healthy and gorgeous," "You're just right the way that you are"), but what if her daughter still puts herself down? Then what?

Perhaps you can show your daughter examples of women of all different shapes and sizes who are beautiful, including real-life women and celebrities.

Also, beware of how you talk about your own body. If you're the mother of a daughter, we'd love to know if this sounds familiar. Does your daughter compare herself to waif-thin media images and worry that she's fat?

Do you secretly worry that your own "fat issues" might influence your daughter's body image?

next: Chart: Should You Play With That Toy?
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Crasher April 7, 2010, 7:59 AM

You could take your daughter to a family friendly nudist resort or club. When you are around real people who are so comfortable in their own skin they don’t feel they have nothing to hide, you start to feel comfortable in your own skin too. It’s helped me out a lot since I started going to these places last year.

I’ve been to one resort in Kissimmee, FL and there are people of all ages and sizes, even kids. It’d be the perfect place to show your kid what real people look like without make up and Photoshop.

Anonymous April 7, 2010, 2:50 PM

Uhm, no thanks Crasher. My 6 y/o daughter says she is fat. She started about a year ago. I immediately started editing what I said about my body in front of her. The thing is, she is built like her dad’s side. They are very tall & big boned, not fat per se. I am only 5 ft 1. She is not fat, but she is not thin like her frenz, her brother has gotten a bit chunky too. They both call each other fat & I hate it!

L April 7, 2010, 6:25 PM

Who the hell would take their child to a nudist resort?

Carolyn April 7, 2010, 7:38 PM

Kids hear fat-this and fat-that from everywhere. My 10 and 7 year old daughters have told me that friends of theirs have said they were fat at school. Okay, I get that they are not “real” friends. Point is that all we can do as parents is give them the tools to deal with this. My kids know that the kids who tease are bullies and have little self-esteem. My girls know they are beautiful inside and out.

Leah April 8, 2010, 5:01 AM

My first question (and not being mean) is are these girls actually fat/chunky? Because I was as a little girl and I see many girls who are now and it’s sad. If they are talk about healthy body types and encourage exercise and healthier diet choices. If they are truly not overweight monitor what YOU say and do - because that’s probably where they are getting it from. Focus on talents and things they like to do to re-frame negative self thought into positive.

mom April 8, 2010, 8:29 AM

Leah, it DOESN’T matter if the girls actually are overweight or not. All girls should get the message that their worth is not tied to their appearance. Are you suggesting that if a girl is “actually fat” it’s OK for her mom to obsess out loud about her own weight?? No. We as moms should always be careful what we say and do in front of our daughters, because disordered eating and low self-esteem can and does happen regardless of how much a girl weighs. By the way, if you are too overbearing about healthier diet and exercise choices, it can backfire badly. All that “talk” from parents, who are probably overweight themselves, doesn’t help and just makes kids feel like failures. Maybe you should all just throw out the junk food and go spend some time being active outside together.

Leah April 9, 2010, 6:02 AM

Wrong Mom - fat/chunky is NEVER healthy and therefore will totally affect your self-impage. A part of our self-worth is tied to how we take care of oursevles and if we are overweight clearly one is not taking care of themselves. I was logically stating that if there is a weight issue it needs to be addressed - not just swept under a rug. Being overwieght is unhealhty and instead of just “obssessing” over it we can take action - if need be

oceaccave July 8, 2010, 7:39 PM

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