When Your 5 Year Old Child Says She’s Fat…

Monthly Archives: October 2013

When Your 5 Year Old Child Says She’s Fat…

My kids have broken my heart more than once or twice…  But never before have I felt crushed by something one of my kids said about themselves.

It’s taken me awhile to write this post.  It hurts.  It’s messy.  It’s complicated.  And I couldn’t bring myself to hit publish until I had the buffer of a little time.  But here goes:

5yo:  Mom?

Me:  Hmmm?

5yo:  Why am I fat?

*My heart stuttered.*

Me:  You’re not fat, you’re perfect!

5yo:  No, my legs aren’t like the other kids.  My legs are fat.

Me:  Your legs are strong and let you run fast.  They are just right for you.

5yo:  I want legs like the other girls, Mom.  I don’t want fat legs.

*My heart crumbled.*

my child thinks she's fat


That ugly F word.

I’ll take the four lettered F word from her mouth every day of the week and twice on Sunday before I ever want to hear her say the 3 lettered one again.


My sweet, amazing, vivacious, brilliant, creative, sassy, opinionated, confident, stylish, quirky and so stinkin’ cute it hurts little girl thinks she’s fat.

What do I do?

If I say her legs are the same as the other girls, she won’t trust me.  The truth is she’s stockier.

She has solid legs and most of the other girls are of the knobby kneed variety.

She’s right.  Her legs don’t look like the other girls.

And I think that’s great.  Her legs are great!  She’s great!

Just the way she is.

She is NOT fat.  Not even close.  But she’s not the same and that’s what she sees right now.

body image of a 5 year old
Definitely NOT fat.

What Does a Parent Do?

My heart breaks for this precious little girl that is feeling different.  

At the same time I wonder if it’s my fault.

Did I say something about my own desire to lose weight that she internalized?

I’m very aware of the pressure to be “perfect” and have a strong desire for my kids to see themselves as perfect just the way they are rather than compared to some societal norm.  

I’m also very aware that as their Mom I am the most important female role model – including regarding body image – for my daughters.

When my kids tell me I have a big butt, I say “Thank you.”  But does my expression fall just a little bit at this unintentional barb?  Probably.

Action Plan

I’m definitely having a “moment”.  A moment of looking around hoping someone else has the answers and feeling inadequate as a parent.

I’ve thought of a few things to do about this, but I definitely don’t have all the answers and would love your suggestions.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far…

  • I will circle back and talk about Being Your Own You.
  • I will reinforce Standing Out From The Crowd.
  • I’ll buy some wall hangings with positive messages like Be Extraordinary instead of Ordinary.
  • I will remind her she’s perfect just the ways she is.
  • We may make signs together saying Be{YOU}tiful.  
  • I will try to point out “normal” women I think are beautiful.

But I’m flailing here.  

I want to cry – the deep sobbing kind – until I have nothing left, and then cry some more.  

I want to yell and rant against the culture that made my little girl feel inadequate.  I want to blame the media, find a scapegoat, wail against the priorities of a nameless, faceless “society” so that I’ll feel better there is someone to blame.

At the same time I want it to go away, for those words to never have come out of her mouth.  I want to find a hole and bury my head in the sand pretending it never happened.

I want all of these things, as confused and contradictory as they are to each other, because that’s how it feels, like a tumbled mass of emotions wrestling round and round stirring up dust that chokes my throat and has my eyes tearing up. 

But I can’t wallow in my emotions.  I need to fix this.  I need to fix this NOW.

Not tomorrow when she races headlong into her teen years – god what a mess those are.  Not after this belief is absorbed by her and becomes her “truth” and nothing I do or say will help oust it from her psyche.  NOW.  TODAY.  I need to fix this.

But how?  



Weight Loss Weigh-In – Totally Blew It

This week was one of those weeks.  The weeks where everything crashes. My motivation hit the floor, brownies were made (and eaten), alcohol was had, exercise was avoided, and gluttony ensued. “If I’ve already screwed up, I may as well go all the way and enjoy it!”  was the prevailing attitude. I can give you…Continue Reading →

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