Help, I Think My Daughter is Fat! How to Help!

Today our “Questions” series continues with this SUPER tough one from a reader up north!


Dear Heather:

I have been encouraged by your posts and reminded to look past comparisons and to Christ. However, I’m struggling lately because my daughter is gaining weight and bigger than her friends. Honestly, I think my daughter is fat. I’ve struggled with self image and now it hurts to watch my girl “not” meet the world’s standard of beauty. I secretly wish she was small like the other girls. She is active and we eat pretty healthy—but she has a good appetite and we do enjoy some treats. She is so beautiful but I still worry. I also wonder if I’m putting my own issues on her. It’s hard for me to even share this, I feel like such a terrible mom. Any advice?

Thanks,

K in Michigan

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Dear K:

Please don’t feel bad, your question is a common one.

Most women battle body image themselves. (Some studies show up to 90 percent of moms do!) When we look at our daughters how can we help but not place some of our own issues on them? Our beliefs come out–whether we want them to or not. Sometimes we communicate more than we even recognize about value and worth directly to our daughters (and sons!)little girl mom thinks fat

That said. First, we have to put on our own oxygen masks. That’s the best analogy I can use because we have no ability to convince our daughters of anything related to their body image until we reconcile what we believe about our worth in our own hearts. We have to know exactly where our value comes from before we can rightly communicate that to our daughters–and before we can truly relax with the way we look–and the way they look.

Do you believe that your value comes from your size and shape?

Do you believe that thin is more valuable than so-called fat?

Do you believe that meeting this culture’s standard of beauty is important?

I don’t want to trivialize this. These are hard questions rooted in deeply ingrained beliefs most of us have had since we were children.

But, in order to help our daughters not have the same battle we do, we have to stop and separate the truth from the lies in our own minds so that what we communicate to them is pure and right.

Now, as I understand your question, it’s not your daughter who thinks she’s fat–she isn’t struggling with these issues. Instead, it’s you who’s struggling. So, instead of talking about how to help her, in this post, we’ll talk about some practical things for you to think and pray through.pink girl cowboy boots

Second: Generally, ask yourself what standard you are using for your daughter’s size. Is the doctor saying she should be thinner or are you just feeling society’s pressure that she must have a certain body type? (Please don’t hear any condemnation in my voice if it’s the latter — but I do think this is an important distinction to make.) If she really needs to trim down to be healthy according to the doctor’s standards, then that’s a different mission than if she needs to be thinner to meet your standard. If your doctor isn’t concerned, then, I’d encourage you not to be either.

If she does need to lose weight for health reasons, tread carefully. Offer plenty of healthy choices and work with her to exercise more. I’d encourage you to avoid putting her on the scale at home or following any organized weight loss plan. If she’s still young enough that you are in charge of most of her food choices, then don’t start a dieting habit for her. Instead, just gradually work to change her eating habits. Make sure you don’t get angry with her for making “poor” food choices or she will soon learn that you want her thin. . .and that’s a set up for future eating disorders.

Third, and most of all, can I just encourage you to give yourself some grace?

This parenting thing is hard and no one has all the answers. Your daughter needs your love and she needs to know that Jesus accepts her, just as she is! It’s important that they know we accept them too -but most important is how much Jesus accepts them. We moms care so, so much. We pour our hearts into making sure that our children are protected from the pain we felt and the pain we see in this world. And, yet, we can’t do that. We have to trust God that He’s got them. And, as they move further and further away from our 24/7 supervision, trusting God is really the only option we have. Right?

We can’t really prevent our daughters from having body image issues. Nor can we do any one thing to ensure that they’ll never be picked on, made fun of, or ostracized– no matter what they look like. But, we can (inadvertently) mute the message that they are unconditionally loved and accepted by the Savior when we say things like, “Jesus loves you just as your are.” And then follow that line with, “Hey, honey, why don’t you lose a little weight…I want you to be like this.” Can I encourage you to watch for that? Our girls need to know that they are loved no matter what their size, skin condition, shape, or appearance. They need to start internalizing this long before puberty.

The biggest struggle for us moms is feeling and believing that His love is really enough–that it’s not Jesus AND beauty that matter. But, only Jesus. Let me encourage you to work on you on that front and I think as God resolves this issue in your heart it will be easier to parent your daughter from a healthy place on the body image front.

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6 Comments
  • Amanda
    November 6, 2015

    I love on “The Help” when Aibileen says “You is smart,. You is kind. You is important.”
    That girl she took care of was a pudgy little nugget and Aibileen always made time to boost her confidence with those kind words, because she knew she needed it.
    My daughter is 4 and wears a size 7 pants. She isn’t overweight, just a very big kid. She doesn’t realize she is bigger than the other kids her age, and I’m glad. I tell her most nights when I am tucking her in how smart and kind and lovely she is. I always get a big smile and hug in return.
    I have no clue how to handle the teenage years when she will be feeling so many pressures to be so many things, but I know how to handle today. “You is smart,. You is kind. You is important.”

    • Heather Creekmore
      November 9, 2015

      I think that’s great Amanda! I always like to encourage moms though to take that even one step further…Our daughters don’t just need to know that we think they are special -they need to know most importantly that GOD does! 🙂

  • Amy
    November 19, 2015

    I Love the advice! I have 8 children and another on the way. When She comes we will have 5 girls and 4 boys. My oldest 2 are girls and are both adults now. The oldest has always been tall and thin, the younger of the two hasn’t. Around 10 yrs old she started gaining weight. I was worried and observed habits and different things that maybe we could change. I found nothing that I knew to help. She was active and played volleyball, did track (which required her to run a mile everyday at practice), she played basketball, at home she played outside with her little brother, rode bikes, went for family walks, etc. At 14 she was heavy and the Dr was worried. He did all the kinds of tests to make sure she was “healthy” and when she was put her in a program to learn how to eat proper portions, different ways to exercise and got to work with a PT to form a program right for her. A requirement was a parent go with her to all the classes. I learned more about nutrition then I had known. It helped the family lose the 5-10 pounds that we all had extra, but she didn’t lose she kept growing taller and gaining! Fast forward the High School years and she is now a heavy 19 yr old adult. We have recently found out thanks to a family friend that she has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It onsets at puberty and has many different symptoms, one major one is uncontrollable weight gain, erratic monthly cycles, ovarian cysts, etc. The sweet OBGYN that she sees said to her “We’ve done all the tests and everything is perfect, except all the cysts and your cycles. We will get those calming down and you should start to feel better. I’m not going to sit here and lecture you on your weight, if you could try to lose 5% of your weight, in studies it’s shown to help the symptoms. I will never tell you, you have to be super thin or that you need to be small. At 6’2″ you never will be, with this syndrome and the symptoms you have it would be near impossible. I’m here to help you in anyway I can! Even if that’s a phone call reminding you that you are a beautiful women inside and out!” It’s the first Dr that has just let her be her, not told her she needs to lose the 80 lbs she needs to be on the chart, the first Dr to look at her and say you are healthy, go enjoy life! We have told her this for years and after this Dr and new discovery she said to me “I have grown up with you and my big sister skinny and beautiful, she looks just like you, you guys act the same, I am just like Dad, I even act like him sometimes, it’s been hard to stay positive when I’m so much bigger! It’s not my fault! My stupid female parts make this happen! Do you know how nice it is in my brain to know that it’s not my fault!! It’s not because I ate a brownie at 10pm with you guys while we were having a girls night, it’s not because I didn’t exercise this morning! It’s my “healthy” body being stupid!” As her mom I cried tears of happy and sad! I have known for years her struggle with her sister and I, many, many outburst have come from that frustration! The kicker for me is they should have figured this out when she was 12-13 she wouldn’t have gained so much weight, wouldn’t have been in hospitals hemorrhaging, wouldn’t have gone through so much. He is running tests on my next daughter whose 12 to make sure she doesn’t have the same thing.
    Look it up and see if she has some of the symptoms, if she does call your Dr and ask about it. It’s worth it!

    • Laila
      January 11, 2016

      You are a great mom! Even you are busy but you focus on her emotional and tried your best to help her.

  • Laila
    January 11, 2016

    Wow. Amazing thoughts and explaining for the issue!
    Thank you!

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