If you have a preteen daughter carrying a little extra weight there’s a good chance she is aware and even unhappy about it.
There’s the possibility that her peers have noticed it too. She might have heard one or more negative comments about her body.
She may tell you that she’s fat and she wants to lose weight. She might even tell you she hates her body or even herself. You will want to talk to her about her body to help her.
Your attitude towards your own body may have inspired her negative self-assessment or maybe it has nothing to do with you. One thing for sure is what you say and do can affect where she goes from there.
When she displays dissatisfaction with her body, don’t offer to help her lose weight. Consider, instead, how you talk about your body as well as other female bodies.
Are you in the habit of judging – good and bad – bodies and talking about it in front of your daughter?
Negative and positive comments can affect how your daughter feels about her body. She learns that being “fat is undesirable” and some women have “perfect bodies.” She internalizes the messages. Her conclusion about her body may not be good because it’s not perfect.
If you think you’re inspiring her to eat well to lose weight by talking a lot about the benefits of being thin and eating healthy food, think again. That backfires more often than it works.
Here are some suggestions that really will help her grow up to be healthy and strong. They help her be appreciative of the body she has, which in turn helps her make good choices that support caring for her body.
- Bodies aren’t fashion accessories. Stop talking about them as if they were. No talk about what body parts look good or bad on any female bodies including yours.
- Never talk about hating your body or specific body parts.
- If your daughter talks negatively about her body, direct her attention to positive things about herself. Specifically, help her see that she is kind, strong, capable, resourceful and intelligent. Help her appreciate her talents and skills.
- If you’re unhappy with your own weight, don’t talk about dieting. Make adjustments to your habits without a lot of noise – just do it.
- If she talks about being fat remind her that she will grow taller and will grow into her weight. Discourage dieting.
- Teach her to shop for, prepare, and enjoy good food. That includes fruit, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, dairy and treats. Don’t make food a moral issue. Trust her to find a healthy balance.
- Encourage her interests that are physically active. This may be team sports or it may be individual activities. Help her try a variety of both to find out what she enjoys or better, what may become her passions.
- Help her discover her own sense of style. If it’s flattering, that’s great. If it could be more flattering you can suggest some styles for her to try without putting down what she’s chosen for herself. If she rejects your suggestions accept it without further comment.
Talking to your daughter about her body is really not so much a matter of what you say to her. It’s a lot of what you say in front of her!