Do you know how to respond when your daughter says she’s fat? Having struggled with these issues as a child myself, I thought I did. And while I may have had some of the answers, I certainly didn’t have them all.
Fat shaming is alive and well – especially in our thinspo (It’s very real, and it’s very triggering) obsessed Instagram culture. A recent article posted by the Girl Scouts, Yes, Your Daughter Called Herself Fat reports, “According to studies, a whopping 80 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. Why? Because they’re constantly surrounded by both subtle and direct messages that curvier or heavier girls aren’t as well liked, aren’t as likely to succeed in business, and in general, aren’t going to have as much fun or happiness in their lives.”
So how do you combat this cultural influence? Here’s what Girl Scouts’ Developmental Psychologist, Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald has to say,
“First, if she really sees her body in a certain way, simply telling her to stop seeing it that way isn’t going to help much. Remember that infamous dress on social media a few years back that some people thought was blue and some thought was gold—and how frustrating it was when those who saw it differently insisted that you were seeing it wrong and tried to get you to see it their way? That’s kind of how your girl is going to feel when you tell her that her body simply isn’t the way she thinks it is.”
“Secondly, by telling essentially telling her that she’s not fat, she’s pretty, you’re reinforcing the idea that fatter, rounder, curvier or heavier bodies aren’t beautiful—which simply isn’t true.,” Dr. Archibald goes on to explain. “There are endless ways to be beautiful, and your daughter will grow up with a much healthier relationship to her body if you teach her that in a genuine way from a young age.”
Here are just a few of the steps she recommends:
- Ask questions that get to the root of the issue – anything else is frankly dismissive. Why do you feel that way? Are your clothes fitting differently? Has someone been making fun of you? Be prepared to listen.
- Be a good example. Have you called yourself fat? Are you constantly on a diet? You lead by example. Pay attention to the messages you are sending and be sure they are healthy.
- Find healthy role models. Help your daughter celebrate healthy body image role models of all shapes and sizes.
That’s a wonderful start! But here’s how the Girl Scouts proposes to Help Build Self-Confidence, positive self-esteem and healthy body image. Here are just a few examples we can all put into practice every day:
- Get active as a family. Try new activities. Lead by example.
- Be mindful of what’s important – show up for important events, be generous with encouragement.
- Let kids speak their mind, respectfully – this inspires confidence and healthy boundaries.
- Give compliments – about things that really matter like persistence, helpfulness, caring, etc.
It’s a tough conversation to have. There’s for solid advice here that I could have used as a young mother. But you’d better believe I’m happy to use it today! Thank you Girl Scouts!
ILLUSTRATION BY MARTA PUCCI
Stay tuned for a TOV Self-Esteem Body Image Facebook LIVE Event!