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Child mental health

10 and 12 year old dds think they are fat :(

11 replies

tiredofwaitingforitalltochange · 11/11/2012 22:28

My gorgeous daughters have both told me they think they are fat.

I'm horrified.

They are both tall and I am 5'10". DD1 has just started secondary. She is a September birthday and maybe a bit further on in her development than some of her friends. She's started wearing a little make up and taking an interest in clothes and her appearance generally.

Neither is fat at all. DD1 (12) has a lovely figure, long legs and small waist. Hardly an ounce of fat on her. DD2 (10) is also slim but has a bit of a tummy and always has.

My biggest fear has always been eating disorders, so I've always been really careful not to do anything that makes food/body image an issue.

They are both very driven and high achievers. I know this often goes with eating disorders.

I'm worried sick, and furious at the society that makes lovely young girls neurotic about weight.

Anyone got any experience of this, and how to nip it in the bud beyond simple reassurance (something I've given them lots of)?

OP posts:
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amazingmumof6 · 12/11/2012 02:39

ouch, that's harsh...

do you remember when you were a teenager and the biggest problem was that no one understood you? or so you thought, coz they would never simply say I hear you?

have you asked why they think they are fat? (I guess you did...)

what did they say? do they really mean it? are they bullied? are they just saying it coz the others do and it means nothing and they don't even think it anyway?

make them look at themselves in a full-length mirror and let them tell you what they see!
if they have a very distorted body image from reality or there are real problems at school and they feel they can't cope with work load/home work or after school activities or they struggle with friendships you should not panic, but look into it.
keep the conversation going. the worst thing for them is to feel that they can't cope and there's no one they can share that with.
they may or may not be in danger of developing an eating disorder, but it doesn't happen over night!

And the fact that they are telling you that this is how they feel is a very good sign!
my sister was bulimic for a long time and hated talking about food, being fat or slim,exercise (even if she was the subject of any of these topics) and became very secretive and sneaky/sly
She knew that we'd figured it out, but was too embarrassed to admit it.)

Also it might be that one of them feels that way, but the other one is just copying her.

(for my sister it started with several bad things happening at the same time, none of which she could control, which made her feel hopeless and useless and the only way she felt she could gain back a tiny slice of control of her life is by controlling the food she ate)

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ChippingInLovesAutumn · 12/11/2012 02:59

It is crap isn't it :(

How do they compare to their peers?

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tiredofwaitingforitalltochange · 12/11/2012 19:12

amazingmumof6 thank you for your thoughtful post and Chipping thanks for the sympathy.

What I didn't say - not drip feeding, just wanted some practical advice for how to deal with the body image issue - is that their dad and I have just separated.

Long story but we had been unhappy for absolutely ages and after years of agony I called time on the marriage earlier this year. We've had a terrible last nine months, we lost our buyers for the family home, struggled to sell subsequently, were stuck under the same roof until a few weeks ago. I have moved out and we are sharing custody which is a lot of upheaval. The family home is still not sold and he is living there, but we are due to exchange contracts in the next few days and my husband will be in the house he is buying by mid-December. There is a huge amount of clearing of the family home to do.

My husband is not coping well at all, and his business is really struggling in the recession. I am sure he is depressed and I am trying to persuade him to see his GP, but he is resistant. He's not always hiding his feelings from the children.

I feel liberated on the other hand, like I am rebuilding my relationship with them after my controlling husband tried to keep me isolated in the family unit.

Unfortunately it was a choice between either me being very unhappy or him. I stayed for years and in the end chose myself.

The girls are both doing well at school and have good friends. DD1 has recently started secondary and came top of her year in recent CAT tests, whatever they are. They are bright and self motivated, and as I said rather driven. We don't push them, I am very busy with a full time degree course (in my fourth year training to be a doctor).

But of course I am desperately worried that this issue has arisen because of the difficult time our family is having at the moment. When I write it all down like that it sounds really fucked up. I feel responsible and wish I could make it all better.

I am worried my 'perfect' daughters are being screwed up and the worst case scenario for me would be an eating disorder in many ways as it is so hard to treat.

I am desperately worried, maybe I need to access some support for them outside the family.

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lljkk · 12/11/2012 19:23

Exactly what and how have they said it?
Lots of girls try on the "I'm fat" line. Getting hysterical about it won't help.
They also like to try out:

"I'm ugly."
"I'm useless."
"Everybody hates me."
"I can't do anything."
"My nose/ears/bum/hands/chin/etc. is too big/small/blue/red/spotty/wide/narrow/smelly."

I wouldn't take any of those very seriously, either, just chat & point out the faulty logic in both perception and magnitude of the worry. Talk about what is the worst case scenario if they are fat/smelly/wide/big-nosed, none of these are end of the world, anyway, and obviously lots of folk get along quite well inspite of these terrible problems (which are subjective, anyway). They need to see it for themselves. I'm not going to blame society for faulty logic, either.

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ChippingInLovesAutumn · 12/11/2012 23:56

:( What a horrible time you have all had.

Maybe it's related to that, maybe not. How have they been other that this? Do they talk to you about it?

How do they compare to their peers? (weight wise)

I don't think it would hurt to try to get some counselling for them, a safe space to talk about how they feel without upsetting either you or their Dad.

I would refute it everytime they say it. Ask - compared to who??? Make them see, in a quiet balanced way, that they are talking rubbish (if you are sure they are). Tell them they can talk to you about how they feel without worrying about upsetting you - tell them it's important for you to know their true feelings.

Keep telling them how lovely, caring, clever, smart, funny, loving & beautiful etc they are and how much you love them.

You will all get out of the other side of this and life will be better :)

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amazingmumof6 · 13/11/2012 00:10

can I just say that comparing has not much to do with eating disorders, which is actually a real problem - people who are anorexic generally don't care about what other people look like,the problems are more likely to stem from low self-esteem, feeling of loss of control, distorted self-image.

My sister's lowest weight was about 6st 7b (she's 5' 5"), but when she looked in the mirror all see could say that she was fat.

All I'm saying is that why I respect other people's opinion, I personally think comparing is not the best way forward to steer them away from their situation.

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ChippingInLovesAutumn · 13/11/2012 00:38

amazing - I'm sorry about your sister :(

I agree that 'comparing' isn't use nor ornament if someone has an eating disorder but there is nothing to indicate the girls have eating disorders and there's no point in saying 'You aren't fat' if they are a bit on the chubby side - far better to deal with it.

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amazingmumof6 · 13/11/2012 00:58


I'm sorry that you are all really have been going through an awful lot. It will effect girls negatively - but it doesn't mean it's fucked up, nor that they have or will ever develop any eating disorders, kids can be quite resilient you know!

the only question I have is whether their father or any other important male in their life have ever called them fat,chubby, big bottomed etc or made any negative comments about their bodies or mocked them about any worries they may have expressed say in the last couple of years?
that could be worth finding out...if they say no, not really, than that's probably the truth.

they are talking to you very honestly about how they are feeling and as long as those feelings are not dismissed or invalidated they will keep talking to you!
that's all you need to keep an eye out for now, keep the conversation going.

tell them it's ok to feel fat from time to time - tell them that we all have fat days and bad hair days and sad and desperate and miserable days...but also pretty days and sunny days and happy days and slim days!
it also might be a good idea to encourage them to keep a good old fashioned diary..

IF, and only if they were to start being secretive, hiding things, having tantrums, sneaking around, avoiding the subject, be very weird about food or around food, make excuses for not eating food or consuming unusually large amounts of food (and always going to the loo shortly afterwards!!!), loosing weight unexpectedly and rapidly, stop having periods regularly or altogether, start wearing baggy jumpers even in the hottest weather... should you get worried and seek help.
if those things occur you must get expert advice, no explaining the signs away, no delay!

until then please, PLEASE don't worry, nothing catastrophic happened (regarding fat issue) and hopefully never will!

you are doing a fantastic job keeping it together (are you?) and you will get through this

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amazingmumof6 · 13/11/2012 01:33

Chipping yes I agree, being honest is essential, and if they were actually fat there would be no point saying they are not,
but based on OP (granted through loving mum's eyes Smile) they are probably a healthy shape/size/weight for their respective ages and heights

I fear that comparing them/themselves with other girls would highlight the issue about their slightly negative self-perception.

I realize that none of this is easy, there's no 1 solution and anything I said so far could be utterly useless/irrelevant/scary and I know you are saying what you are saying to be helpful!!!Smile Thanks
< I'm not being defensive here, just aware of how little I know and how wrong I could be!>

Also as I'm writing this I'm cuddling my 7 months old DD thinking bloody hell, how would I react should she come home one day saying these things? my beautiful, clever, happy, healthy, wonderful little girl, how can I protect her from actual and potential problems? how will I tell the difference?
would I go bonkers, overprotective, depressed, casual, dismissive.....would I even able to talk about it?

I don't know and I feel like crying coz it's just so damn hard to look after our boys and girls even without the negative influence of the outside world...

well enough said, onwards and upwards, evr hoping for the best!

(and thanks about my sis, she's better)

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ChippingInLovesAutumn · 14/11/2012 00:50

Well, I think that's where a Mum [not them!] comparing them to their peers helps. We see our kids as perfect well, when you aren't wanting to throttle them!! and it's very easy to put excess weight down to 'puppy fat/curvy/solid' when in fact they are overweight. It just gives you a more realistic idea if they are 'the same as most kids their age' or not - that's all. I'm not saying she should ask them to do it or line them all up to make her mind up - just to have a good look around at their peers and be honest with herself - or even ask her friends their honest opinion.

But I don't actually think their weight or eating disorders is what's going on here - I think they're just being typical tweens & the OP is taking it all on her shoulders and blaming herself when it probably would have been exactly the same if everything at home had been rosy :(

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mindfulmum · 14/11/2012 23:30

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Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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