'My mum continuously body shames me. I've had enough.'

Being body-shamed is a different type of hurt.

But from our parents? That cuts deep.

Unfortunately, it's something a lot of people — especially young girls — experience at the hands of the ones they love.

One young woman made this clear when she shared her own experience on the popular Reddit thread "Lose It". 

"My [mother] and grandma won't stop body shaming me and it hurts," she shared, adding that her family's words had sent her into a downward spiral. 

"I started to have an unhealthy relationship with food. She either explicitly says that I'm fat or keeps food away from me so I won't eat it. It genuinely hurts."

After her post gained traction, the young girl confessed she felt "very uncomfortable" telling her mother about the impact her words were having. 

"I'm too uncomfortable with the way I look to even talk about it," she wrote.

It's sad to note this is young woman's experience is not uncommon. Research tells us that up to 76 per cent of adolescents have experienced comments from their parents regarding their weight, shape or eating behaviours.

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues after video. 

Video via Mamamia.

Commenters were, of course quick to support the girl who had shared her experience of being body shamed by her mum and grandma. But negative comments about kids' bodies from their parents can cause a lot of harm, says Butterfly Foundation spokesperson Helen Bird – not only in the now, but for years to come. 

"It can have a devastating and long-term impact on a child's relationship with eating, physical activity, their body and their sense of identity," she explained to Mamamia. "It can impact a young person's self-esteem and lead to body dissatisfaction, disordered eating and even an eating disorder."

Those impacted might not always show their pain in the moment, but that doesn't mean the impact can't be felt for years to come.

"Even the most confident person can be impacted by body shaming and what your child hears at home is what they will pay forward in the world," she says.

"There is evidence that shows that negative comments about appearance or teasing about appearance can be harmful, whether it comes from mothers, fathers, siblings or peers," Bird continued. 

"Research shows that if parents encourage children to lose weight or criticise their weight, this may contribute to poorer body image, greater likelihood of dieting and risk of disordered eating, and teasing by parents has also been shown to increase the likelihood of teasing about appearance from siblings."

There's a misconception that shaming people — especially children — into making wiser choices will help them in the long run.

Except that isn't the case at all, says Bird.

"It doesn't, in fact, lead them to make 'healthier' choices, it does the exact opposite," she explained. "The more positive a person feels in their body, the more likely they are to look after it. Parents should support their children to be accepting of their bodies and all bodies."


The Butterfly Foundation aims for a zero-tolerance approach to appearance teasing and bullying — not just in homes, but at school, in sporting and activity clubs and online – and provides resources within these environments to support that.

But if we want our children to love and respect the bodies they're born with, Bird says we need to "self-reflect".

"If they’re not in a good place themselves, then it is never too late to reach out for help or to do some learning and unlearning when it comes to health, weight and shape, and the internal biases they may hold," she explains.

"We don’t expect parents to be perfect, but they do need to understand the deep impact their comments have. It's important to understand that their own or their child’s bodies are not the problem, and that it is the unrealistic thin and muscular body ideals that are perpetuated in our culture that need to change."

There is no easy answer either on how to tackle this problem, but Bird says it really does start within the home – and within ourselves.

"The key message that young people need to hear is that their body does not need to change. Instead of trying to 'fix' their appearance, we want them to be kind to their body – kind in the way they move, nourish and nurture their body and kind in the language they use about their body," Bird said.

"It’s also about seeing themselves as more than their body or appearance, and seeing their true worth in who they are as a person, their talents, their interests, etc. It's important to encourage the young person to see that the negative comments are the problem, not their body, and to try to build resilience to the thoughts and comments of others. 


"Of course, this isn’t always easy – not even for adults!"

For parents of younger children, Bird says it could be good to introduce boundaries that are direct and honest.

For example, having them say these statements could do a world of good:

"I am working on being more accepting of my body, and I would appreciate it if you were too."

"I am happy with my body and I'd prefer it if you didn't comment. I don't find it helpful."

"I’ve decided to try to appreciate the body I have, so I'm going to start by not bullying it anymore and would like you to do the same."

That might not be an easy solution, though, so Bird says young people could also involve a third party – like a neutral family member, another trusted adult (like a school counsellor) or anyone else in their support network.

We owe it to our children to teach them to love themselves and their bodies, and to give them the right tools to navigate life successfully. 

The Butterfly Foundation represents all people affected by eating disorders and negative body image issues. You can contact the Butterfly Foundation Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673). 

Feature Image: Getty.

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