Six Signs your Daughter May Struggle with Body Image:


The standard of beauty differs from every culture. Often, self worth and the definition of beauty is exchanged for physical attraction. If you’re a woman, its likely you’ve faced the temptation of harsh and cookie cutter views when it comes to true beauty, sexual appeal, or attraction. If your a man, its likely you have been impacted by such a view as well. However, this blog is more geared towards women, just for sake of time. The Body Image topic has become a huge epidemic among our youth, and individuals at large. Historically, ones body image has been used to manipulate and cause deep shame or hurt in individuals. The reality, however, is so many women are facing this epidemic. Narrowing the idea, standard, and definition of beauty is, quite frankly, impossible. Each one of us are created with unique features, with intention. Some of us have freckles, while Some of us are Black, White, Russian or Asian. Some of us are tall, short, curvy or slender. Some have short legs, and long torsos, while others have long everything! There ain’t no "one cookie cutter fits all!" And guess what? Each is uniquely and equally beautiful. Society presents a rigid description for how one ought to look, and typically, its very unrealistic. Yet, these are the pressures all women are facing. This blog will discuss negative body image issues, self esteem issues, signs of having a negative body image, and ways to help your teen have a more positive body image. 

Social media is all around us, now, more than ever before. From Facebook, to Tumbler or Snapchat to Instagram, the social outlets are a platform for better or worse. Studies have shown that often, social media can cause an increase in depression or anxiety. It increases the natural desire or need to compare. From airbrushed models to body shaping apps on social media, changing ones appearance into something supervision is seamless.

Some Causes of a Negative Body Image... 

  • Societal standards: When we see an airbrushed body that is contorted into a false image, it confuses anyone’s perception of beauty, and creates this impossible standard for how to look. Such standards can warp into one hating their own body, and bring forth quite a bit of shaming in its place. 
  • As a parent, how you view your own body image can sometimes transfer onto your children in some fashion: As a therapist who has worked with body image issues and some eating disorders, there can be a theme and connection between how one’s mother interprets her own body to how her daughter interprets hers. However, this is not always the case. As a parent, you are a model to your daughter for how to value yourself :) 
  • We live in a society where often, the youth are praised, and far more acknowledged. This is unfortunate. Because, the reality and beauty of it all, is women are always evolving. Women age, just as men age, and we try to cover this reality up. We strive to keep everyone young. Through varying procedures being advertised, it begins to cause one to rethink the true definition of beauty. It isn't too often you see a fifty or sixty something model on the run way. What are we saying as a society when we display only one type of woman on that runway? 

6 Signs your daughter struggles with her body image: Please note that not all of these are a direct sign of body image issues. Ultimately, many of them clump together to create a picture of what is really going on.

  1. Anxiety and/or Depression- There are several reasons many of us struggle with anxiety or depression, especially in the teen years into the twenties. But, if you are noticing a connection between some of the signs listed below coupled with anxiety or depression, this can reveal more than what may meet the eye as it relates to your daughter's body image. If your daughter is found crying excessively, isolating, or shutting down emotionally, these can be signs of anxiety or depression seeping in. If you are noticing your daughter over obsessing with what clothes to wear, or dressing extremely different than before, such as overly baggy clothes, or, overly tight clothes, these can be potential indicators that she’s adopting or wresting through some negative body image issues. 
  2. Dieting: Often, dieting can lead directly to eating disorders. Its commonly known as the entry way “drug” into disordered eating. Why? Well you get a rush off of the quick drop in weight, or, you realize the control you think you have. When in reality, dieting is one of those things that often begins to control the person. Engaging in a new trendy diet, or dabbling in several dieting hacks at once are a key indicator, if not an alarm that something deeper is about to take place. Taking laxatives, or fasting as a way to lose weight is also in this category. Dieting is a long slippery slope when it comes to eating disorders in the long run. If your daughter is having a preoccupation with foods, this is a sign she may need more support or care. 
  3. Weight fluctuations: This is a huge indicator of a love/hate relationship with food all around. If your daughter is having large weight fluctuations, it may not be a bad idea to consider counseling if she is open, or to get her talking about it. 
  4. Rigid and Excessive Exercising: Going to the gym at odd hours of the day and/or night to get just another workout in is a sure fire sign that there is something internal going on. 
  5. Binging and Purging: Often, eating is a comfort for many. Whats hard about food addiction, is its not something that we can just stop. Eating is a requirement to survival. Binging in and of itself is already a sign of an eating disorder. If you are noticing a long period of time where your daughter is consuming excessive amounts of food on a consistent basis, there may be some wrestling with self hate, insecurities, or possibly something even more complex and underlying. I like to encourage individuals who are in this category to read the book “Eating Mindfully” by Susan Albers and Lilian Cheung. 
  6. Self Harm: If you are seeing areas on your daughters body (arms, legs are common) where your daughter has self harmed. First, its important to seek out some extra support. But, this is another indicator that your daughter is struggling with some self hate, self esteem issues,  and potential body image issues. 

How to help: 

  • Taking the time to listen is key. Opening up a conversation and asking about your concerns. I will note here, however, that if this is the first and only big thing you’ve broached with your daughter in a while, chances are, you may not get the results you want. Lift your daughter up for who she is. Don’t directly attempt an engaging conversation about her disordered eating, or your concerns. That may not go over too well. So,take time to invest in your relationship with her. Go on a mother/daughter date. Ask about her friends, and any guys in her life. But, ultimately, don’t be afraid to bring up the big elephant in the room. The more hidden we make topics, the bigger and worse they get! Avoid accusing your teen there is something wrong with them. And , don’t expect to have a perfectly seamless conversation on your first try. Your awakening a sensitive topic.
  • The root of body image issues is deep and complex. So, therapy can often help target the root cause, and begin to create a new more positive body image from the inside out. There are often support groups in local communities too. 
  • Volunteer work or support groups will help increase your daughter’s sense of the world, their self esteem, and realization that they have great things to contribute to the world. These outlets can allow them to dive into the other parts of themselves too. 
  • Take care of YOURself! :) Yes ,you mom or dad!! Value yourself, take those mountain getaways, or get that massage. Its important that your teen sees you valuing yourself, and that you see that you matter.  We as humans are wired to mirror what we see. Commonly, if the parent is obsessing or wrestling with their own internal body image issues, it isn't uncommon for the child too as well. How you view your own self, will reveal to your child how they should view their own self. 

Here are some other resources that may be helpful to take a look at: 

  1. love your tree video:
  2. eating mindfully book: 
  3. You are worth it project: Selah Counseling will be launching the “You are Worth it Project” in 2018. “You are Worth it Project” consists of four 1:1 workshops designed specifically to address and help women struggling with body image and self esteem and target underlying causes. Be on the lookout for more details as the date approaches. 
  4. “This is Who I am Book” A book that journeys several different womens stories around their own body types. I integrate this into the “You are Worth it Project” as well. 
Amanda Cosel