Body image problems are widespread among adolescents, especially adolescent girls. And most parents have heard their teenage daughter make self-deprecating statements about her body, such as «I’m so fat» or «Look how big my thighs are!»
Such comments make many parents uncomfortable and insecure about how to respond. But how you respond to such statements makes a big difference in how your child feels about himself.
What to do if your teen says she’s fat
If your daughter says she’s fat, here are some things you can do.
Validate your feelings
Saying things like «Oh, you’re not» or «Stop doing this» won’t change the way your daughter looks. If you think you are overweight, arguing with your feelings could make the situation worse.
Validate your feelings by saying something like, «I know sometimes it can be hard to feel good about your body.»
Help her assess her perception
Adolescents are not very good at determining if their weight is healthy. Instead, they often base their judgments on how they feel. And their perceptions of size are slightly distorted by friends or Media .
Calculate your daughter’s BMI to determine a healthy weight for her height. Look at the weight range considered healthy, underweight and overweight and discuss where you are in that range.
Talk about distorted body image
If you are not overweight, talk about how people develop distorted body images. Retouched magazine photos, underweight models and glamorizing slim ideals can cause many people to confuse slim with healthy.
Unfortunately, social media sometimes fuels the idea that people should look perfect. There are many teenagers obsessed with taking the perfect selfie and the girls talk about the importance of having a «space between the thighs.» These are just some of the ways that many teens develop negative body image.
It is normal for teenagers to be narcissistic sometimes. Therefore, you probably think that everyone is looking at her or that she assumes that the world revolves around her and her appearance. This perception can also distort your body image.
Emphasize health, not weight
Talk about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. If your daughter is overweight, discuss strategies she can use to lose weight. Talk to your doctor about the best ways for teenagers to become healthier.
Adolescents are at particularly high risk of taking dangerous measures to lose weight. Fasting, compulsive exercise, fad diets or even cleansing are just some of the unhealthy ways that many of them try to lose weight. It is important that your teen is well informed about the harmful effects that these options can have on his or her body.
Talk about healthy self-talk
If your teen is self-critical, it’s important to recognize how this can affect how he or she feels and behaves. For example, a teenager who thinks, «I’m ugly and nobody likes me,» is less likely to talk to people. As a result, you may find it difficult to make friends. This can strengthen your negative thinking.
Teach him how to develop healthy self-talk. Talk about how she can remember the good qualities she has and teach her not to say anything she wouldn’t tell a friend.
Many girls unrealistically believe that their appearance is directly related to anything from happiness to success. They think that if they could be thinner, they would be popular and they wouldn’t have to worry about things like harassment again.
Talk to your teen about how you think their weight and appearance affect them. See if your expectations are realistic. Remind them that not all thin or attractive people live a happy life. Emphasize inner beauty and discuss how it is more important to be kind and caring than physical beauty.
When to seek professional help
If your daughter’s body image problems are interfering with her life, seek professional help. Talk to your doctor or meet with a mental health professional. You may face a mental health problem underlying or you may be at risk for an eating disorder.