In the last year, my 16-year-old daughter has gained roughly 25 pounds. While I know this is entirely normal for her age (the same happened to me at 16), it’s taken a serious toll on her confidence. She makes self-deprecating comments about her body all the time, and has started wearing oversized hoodies and leggings every day. When I try to talk to her about it, she immediately shuts me down. It’s been painful for both of us.
My question is, should I encourage her to make healthier choices, or will that make everything worse? Do I talk to her about my diet? Also, why do I feel so awful about this?
Swamped in Sweatpants
This may surprise you, but the most important thing you can do right now is be kind to yourself.
You have a lot of strong feelings around weight and body image. That’s normal. You have to remember that you, too, were brainwashed by a culture that convinced you your weight was directly related to your worth. Being an adult doesn’t mean forgetting the pain of your own girlhood. If you went through this painful transition at her age – and felt terribly about yourself then – watching your daughter go through it will push you to revisit your own memories. That’s why it’s vital that you practice self-compassion about the way her changing body is making you feel.
Here’s what self-compassion might look like in this situation:
Mindfulness: I am feeling guilty about how deeply this bothers me. I feel scared and worried because she won’t connect with me about this. I am remembering all of the times I felt ashamed of my body at her age, and reliving those memories is making me feel ashamed.
Common Humanity: Most women I know went through this transition at some point and came out okay. I know strong, beautiful women of all shapes and sizes, and I can imagine how many of them have had these very same thoughts and feelings.
Self-Kindness: I am proud of my daughter for who she is, not the way she looks. I love her and I know she loves me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be with her during this experience, and to give her the things my own parents could not or did not give me. I’m doing the best that I can.
As for talking to her about your own diet, I say hold off for now. You can model healthy behaviors without lecturing her. It’s up to her to make her own choices, particularly around food: If you shove them down her throat (literally), she’ll just end up resenting you and the healthy food.
Keep your chin up. You got this.
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