When Your Kid Says They’re Fat

I had a friend call me the other day, her 8 year old daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, I think I am fat.” My friend’s heart sank, as it was clear from her daughter’s expression and tone she perceived this to be a bad thing. She called me later in the day asking how she could have responded. I suspect she isn’t the only 1 with this question, so here is what I said.

Be curious.

Often we can assign meaning or make assumptions that our kids don’t. Let them share their experience. You can ask questions like “What do you think that means?” “How did that make you feel?” “ What do you think about that?”

Lift up and normalize all bodies.

I have heard many parents respond “You’re not fat honey, you’re beautiful.” Which can also be interpreted as fat isn’t beautiful. All bodies are beautiful.

When in doubt, use neutral language.

Bodies aren’t good or bad, they just are. All bodies are different, and there is no need to assign a judgment regarding those differences.


Use this as an opportunity to evaluate your own language regarding bodies. If your child believes you are uncomfortable with fatness, they will pick up on this. Relearning, reparenting, and expanding our own views can be a gift of parenthood.

Kelly Jewell is a licensed and registered dietitian skilled in providing nutrition therapy to individuals struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders, chronic dieting, and pre- and post-natal nutrition.

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