How your daughter feels when you say "I'm fat"

"I need to go on a diet."

"I'm fat."

"I have a muffin top."

These are the words 13-year-old Julia wrote during a self-esteem workshop for young girls at the Dove 2013 Mom 2.0 Summit. The girls had been asked to describe how women in their lives talk about their appearance.

Julia wrote the statements down under the heading "Mom" and was then asked to write down how these words made her feel.

Here is her full work, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

I found it pretty confronting because those are the type of thoughts that run through my head every day.

My husband has wisely banned me from discussing my weight in front of our daughters. He doesn't want me putting funny ideas in their heads about body image. And he's right. I have very funny ideas about my body – none of them good – and they defintely shouldn't be in my daughters heads. So I try to keep my trap shut and restrict myself to the occasional moan to him about my belly blubber after the kids are safely tucked in bed.

I'm so cautious about discussing "fat" in front of them that I blanched last night while reading a Morris Gleitzman short story called "Think Big" to my seven year old. It was about a little girl who conducts a science experiement to convince her mum she's not overweight.

It includes sentences such as "Aunty Bev is making Mum starve herself. She's Mum's big sister measured in years, but she's always nagging Mum about being the one who's bigger in fat globules" and "Mum's gone mental about food. She reckons everything goes to her thighs."

I even contemplated stopping the story and starting another, but decided that might create more problems – and questions – than it solved.

Dove's Global Self-Esteem Ambassador, entrepreneur and writer Jess Weiner, said the focus at its Mom Summit this year was on the way girls' families hold them back without realising they are doing just that.

In their global study The Real Truth About Beauty, Dove found that over 60% of girls avoid certain activities because they feel bad about their looks with 19% not trying out for a team or a club, 23% not going to the beach or pool, 13% not giving an opinion and 15% not going to school.


The solution? Mothers can build their daughter's self-esteem so they can achieve anything. How? By working on our own body image and keeping an open, positive dialogue with our daughters.

The statements Julia attributed them to her mum show the powerful affect a mother's body image has on her daughter. By saying there was something wrong with her body, making statements like, "I want my old body back", Julia felt sad and responsible, leading her to try and come up with a solution – to go jogging with her.

It's a reminder of how carefully our children listen to every single word we say. And how easily they can pick up on our negativity.

Jess Weiner believes we need to provide a wider perspective of role models for girls, including women who do exceptional things. She said, "Girls have the ingredients for self-worth, but sometimes need the recipe."

Ambassador Jess Weiner was joined by journalist Lisa Ling who said she feels the main reasons women and girls don't achieve their goals is due to insecurity and lack of confidence. She wants us to redefine the word "beautiful".

She added that our committment to the cause of raising unstoppable girls begins at home.

Agreed, and we can all start today. As part of their social mission, Dove has published the Positive Self-Esteem Makes Girls Unstoppable workshop on their website for mothers of girls aged 11 to 16. They recommend the following:

* Don't look in the mirror and sigh about how lumpy or awful you are;

* Don't complain about your floppy bits;

* Don't say, "I shouldn't be eating this because I don't want to put on weight".

They recommend that as mothers we encourage our daughters to open up and explain what magazines do to photos to make their models look unrealistically beautiful. We should compliment our daughters and their friends pointing out their individual characteristics and achievements.

As mothers, we are the single biggest influence on our daughters. Let's make our daughters unstoppable.