Mom, I Feel Fat!: Becoming Your Daughter's Ally in Developing a Healthy Body Image

Mom, I Feel Fat!: Becoming Your Daughter's Ally in Developing a Healthy Body Image

by Sharon Hersh


View All Available Formats & Editions


Never before have our daughters been more concerned and obsessed with the concept of being "fat." From kindergarten on up, girls worry about the size of their stomachs, backsides, and thighs, and even the youngest experiment with dieting and exercise. Much has been written to girls on the challenges they face with regard to body image. But where can a mother turn for advice on how to proactively parent a daughter struggling with—or soon to confront—these insecurities?

You can make a difference.

Whether your daughter is 8 or 16, Mom, I Feel Fat! will help you understand her, the body image issues she will face—from self-esteem to eating disorders—and yourself. Most of all, you'll be encouraged to use the inevitable questions and challenges regarding body image and eating choices to prevent crisis and to strengthen your relationship with your daughter and with God.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780877885382
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/28/2001
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 6.03(w) x 8.98(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Sharon A. Hersh is a licensed professional counselor who coaches mothers and daughters to use the challenges in their relationship to strengthen their relationship. She is the director of Women's Recovery & Renewal, a ministry of counseling,
retreat, and support services for struggling women and their caregivers. The author of Bravehearts: Unlocking the Courage to Love with Abandon, she lives with her family in the Denver, Colorado area.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Guide to
“Mom, I Feel Fat!”

1. Chapter 1

Consider this: God has entrusted you with both a daughter and a mother’s heart for your daughter. Don’t be afraid to trust yourself as God has trusted you!
1.Do you trust yourself in mothering? Why? Why not?
What makes you and your daughter a “good match” for one another?
What makes you feel like you are not a good match?

How would a change in perspective–believing you are the perfect mother for your daughter–change your mothering?

We’re afraid for our daughters in this culture that worships thinness and exalts appearance above all else. We’re afraid peer pressure is stronger than our influence. We’re afraid we’ll say the wrong things and make matters worse. We’re afraid to share our experiences, because it might encourage our daughters to make the same mistakes we did. We’re afraid of being bad mothers.
2.Of the fears listed above, what do you most identify with? Why?
Talk about a time (even if it was years ago) when your influence was most important to your daughter. What strengths does this story reveal about you? Are they still there? Do you use them in mothering today?

Do you think your daughter can tell when you feel like a “bad” mother?
How does this impact her?
What about when you feel like a good mother?

Hand-in-hand mothering is simply a willingness to learn as many ways as you can of responding to your daughter out of a heart filled with limitless love for her.
3.Talk about your willingness to learn and grow as a mother. What kind of mother do you long to be?

Share some of your heart’s longings for your daughter. Ask another mother to pray for you specifically with regard to one of your longings.

Do you see mothering as a holy calling?

4.How have you viewed mothering? Calling? Duty? Burden? Privilege?
How did your mother view mothering?
How do the people in your sphere of influence view mothering?

What would change in your heart if you viewed mothering as a holy calling?

5.How does your view of yourself specifically impact your daughter with regard to body image and eating?

2. Chapter 2

However you characterize your mothering, one helpful way to evaluate it is to notice where you place yourself in relationships to your daughter.
1.After reading about the mothering styles from above, beneath, at a distance, and hovering, what do you think is your primary mothering style?

Share some of your favorite motherisms.

What do you like about your style of mothering?
What would you like to change?

A faith-filled vision for a real relationship not only holds on to who you are as you share yourself with your daughter, but it doesn’t forget who your daughter is.
2.What causes you to lose faith in yourself?
What causes you to lose faith in your daughter?

Who are the people in your life who best remind you of who you really are?
If there is no one, how do you remind yourself?

Hope is restored when we accept our daughters’ struggles as gifts and prayerfully and intentionally look for where we can change.
3.Share one of your daughter’s struggles?
What attitude have you had about her struggle?

Can you see any potential “gifts” in the struggle–for her or you?

What needs to change in you in order to adopt a hopeful perspective?

We can consistently mother out of well-formed love when we know–really know–that we are loved.
4.How “well-formed” is your sense of being unconditionally loved?
Share an example of how the absence or the presence of this sense has impacted your mothering?

How would a change in perspective impact your mothering?

5.Why are faith-filled vision, hopeful acceptance, and unconditional love important in mothering a daughter with respect to body image and eating?

3. Chapter 3

At age ten your daughter may weight in at 75 pounds, and just five or six years later she may tip the scale at 125!
1.What has your daughter’s physical transition into adolescence been like?

What has your daughter been afraid of? Happy about? Angry about?
What have been your emotions with regard to your daughter’s physical changes?

When it comes to body image and eating behaviors, our daughters will be tempted to experiment with conforming to the unique pressures in their world.
2.What have been some of your daughter’s “experiments” with eating behaviors?
What have been some of yours?

How did you respond to your daughter’s behaviors?
How did she respond to your response?

One of the most important principles of mother-daughter relationships: If you want a real relationship with your daughter–not just an obligatory one that comes from the fact that you’re related–then you are going to have to do most of the work!
3.What response does the previous sentence provoke in you?
Discuss your ideas of “real relationship–not just an obligatory one that comes from the fact that you’re related.”

How do you feel when you sense that you are doing most of the work of relationship?
How does this come out in your mothering?

Do you have other relationships that are more mutual–where you’re not doing most of the work?
How does this affect your mothering?

Pray together about developing strong mothering alliances for support in the hard work of mothering.

The foundation of hand-in-hand mothering is that we offer ourselves to our daughters. She doesn’t need you to be an expert on everything or fix her. She wants you. And she needs you to want her.
4.How do you offer yourself to your daughter?
Do you think you are communicating to her that you want her?
Brainstorm about some new ways that you can do this.

With regard to body image and eating, have you believed you needed to be an expert or to fix your daughter?
How has she responded to you?]

Many mothers have resisted looking at the subject of body image and eating at this stage in their daughters’ lives, stating, “It’s too early, and I don’t want to give her any ideas.”
5.Have you been resistant to thinking about body image and eating with regard to your daughter? Why?

What can you be more courageous about with regard to these issues?
How can you be more curious?

Discuss how the subjects of body image and eating might be a good opportunity to express your commitment to your daughter.

4. Chapter 4

The culture is not the enemy–but there is an enemy.
1.How have you viewed the culture as an enemy?
How has your daughter received your perspective?
What scares you about not viewing the culture as an enemy?

How seriously have you taken the idea that Satan wants to use the arena of body image and eating to snare you and your daughter?

When we feel the culture pulling our daughters away from us, we must do the work of creating a relationship that offers more than the culture.
2.Talk about your response to the previous sentence.
How do you see the culture pulling your daughter from you?
How do you normally respond?

Do you believe that you can offer something more appealing than the culture?

The culture is a powerful tool for me to use in communicating my love for my daughter.

3.As you read the illustration of my use of the teen magazine to connect with my daughter, what was your response?

What keeps you from using the culture to connect with your daughter?

Commit to “design” a connection from the culture with your daughter. Meet together to share your plans.

Rather than throwing our hands up in despair over the power of peer pressure or locking your daughter in her room until she turns twenty-one, you can respond to the reality of peer influence in ways that can strengthen your relationship with your daughter rather than tear it apart.
4.Do you take your daughter’s bond with her peers personally?
If so, how can you check yourself and stop doing this?

Share some of the positive peer influences you’ve seen in your daughter’s life.
If there are none, how could you help her to meet more positive peers?

How have your daughter’s peers influenced her attitude about body image and eating?
Is there any way you can direct that influence–positive or negative–for your daughter’s good?

5. Chapter 5

When our daughters begin to walk into adolescence, we so often view their awkwardness with despair, fear, or even shame. If, in the mirror of their relationship with us, our daughters seem themselves as chaotic messes, who can blame them for complying with the image we reflect back?
1.What has been your attitude toward your daughter’s emotional turmoil?
When your daughter is angry, moody, or sad who do you most often reflect back to her that she is?
Who do you want her to be?
How are these two images different?

Self-soothing and reconnection are the cornerstones of walking through conflict with our daughters at any age.
2.When there is conflict between you and your daughter, how is the conflict most often resolved?

How do you soothe yourself when you and your daughter are at odds?

How do you reconnect with your daughter after you’ve been fighting?
What keeps you from reconnecting?

When our daughters do not learn healthy ways to self-soothe, they might turn to food in unhealthy ways. When leftover lasagna or not eating anything becomes the balm for conflict, our daughters are set up for unhealthy or addictive eating behaviors.
3.How have you used food to soothe yourself?
How have you observed your daughter use food?

Talk about some ways that you have combated emotional eating for yourself.

When we take our daughter’s expressions and choices personally, we deny her the very goal she is attempting to achieve in these expressions–the development of her own person.
4.Talk about a time when you took your daughter’s expression personally.
Why is it hard for you to not take difficulties with your daughter personally?
What are the ways in which you affirm your daughter’s uniqueness?
Conflict can be a crucible in which I grow in important ways and develop a wondrous relationship with my daughter.
5.What do you want most in the middle of a conflict with your daughter?
Share a conflict in which you wanted to prove that you were right.
Share a conflict in which you saw a need for personal growth.
Share a conflict in which your daughter grew.

6.Read the “Guidelines for a Good Fight” on pg. 96.

What seems the most difficult to you in these guidelines?
What seems the most important for your relationship with your daughter?

Are there any guidelines that you would like to add?

What would you like to ask for in prayer from another mom with regard to conflict with your daughter?

6. Chapter 6

Body image often has little to do with our actual physical body. Body image is the way we see our size, shape, and proportions, as well as how we feel about our bodies.
1.What is your body image? What has contributed to the development of your body image?

What do you think is your daughter’s body image? What influences her?

I realized that my daughter had a slim chance of developing a healthy body image if I was constantly critiquing and criticizing my own body.
2.How critical of your own body are you? Why?
How does the understanding that your body image is “contagious” to your daughter affect you?

What would you like to change about your own body image?
Ask another mother to pray for you with regard to this change.

Every time your daughter says, “I feel fat,” or “My body is gross and disgusting,” remember that there is a lot going on in her mind, heart, and body.
3.How does your daughter express her body image?
How do you respond to her?
Brainstorm about some positive, creative ways you can respond to your daughter’s laments about her body.

When a girl learns that she should not express anger, jealousy, disappointment, longing, hurt, fear, or sadness because she will be punished, judged, ignored, or labeled, then all of those feelings get stuffed in the body.
4.How free do you feel with emotional expression?
How do you believe your emotional life has impacted your body image?

What messages have you given your daughter about her emotional expression?
If she is emotionally inhibited, what has contributed to her stifled emotions?

Is there anything you can do to create an environment where your daughter feels more free to express herself. Ask others for ideas.

Like a steady IV drip, the influence of the culture seeps into our girls’ minds and hearts and can turn them against their own bodies.
5.What influences from the culture have influenced your body image?
Your daughter’s body image?

Share some ways that you and your daughter disagree about the culture.

Using the ideas in this chapter, how will you “use” the culture to help your daughter with her body image.

7. Chapter 7

Eating disorders do not develop when emotions, fears, desires, hurt, and confusion go underground, and eating becomes a substitute form of expression for emotion.
1.Has eating ever been a substitute for your for feeling?
Talk about a fear, longing, or hurt that your daughter might be suppressing. Brainstorm about ways that you could help your daughter to get her feelings out.

By the time I reached high school, I had come to three dangerous conclusions about my

eating:I can’t make good choices for myself.
What I want is probably bad.
I’m already fat. If I eat what I want, I will be really fat.

2.Have you ever struggled with an unhealthy relationship with food?

What beliefs about yourself and good led to your unhealthy relationship?

Our culture of thinness and calorie-counting has produced a generation of girls who do not know that it’s okay to be hungry.
3.Does your daughter have a good appetite?
How do you feel when you see her “chow down”?
Do you have different standards for how much a girl should eat versus a boy?
Are there any ways in which you have discouraged her healthy appetite?
Eating is a form of expression, an important clue as to what we are feeling and needing when we choose a particular food.
4.Think about your daughter’s eating behaviors? What has seemed quirky to you? What has seemed questionable? Dangerous?

Ask others to help you think through what your daughter might be “saying” in her eating about what she needs.
Is there another way you can help her meet her needs?

Eating disorders develop when we fixate on eating and weight control. When life narrows down to cookies and fat-free yogurt or losing the next five pounds, it is a symptom of a potential eating disorder and an attempt to find control in an uncontrollable world.
5.How is your daughter fixated on food or losing weight?
What might feel out of control in her life?
Are there other ways that you can help your daughter respond to what is out of control besides eating?

Believing that your daughter can grow into her own person–and is not against you and you don’t have to be against her–is one of the rewards of hand-in-hand mothering.
6.How do you applaud your daughter for being different from you?
What are you afraid of in her differences?
Share a story about a time when you let your daughter know that you were for her.

8. Chapter 8

We’ve bought into false advertising, grandiose promises, and unhealthy habits. We are the experts here. We are the ones to help our daughters navigate this world of promise and peril.
1.What advertising promises about weight loss have you believed?
What unhealthy habits with regard to eating and weight loss have you experienced?

Have you viewed experience with dieting as an asset or liability with regard to helping your daughter?

When our daughters dare to disclose a question or a fear about their bodies, they are hoping for a haven from the cold, cruel world out there.
2.Talk about some of your daughter’s disclosures about her body image.
How have you offered her a haven?
Have you ever disclosed anything to your daughter about your body image or weight loss struggle? Why not?

How could such a disclosure help her? Hurt her?

After working with hundred of women who have tried every diet imaginable, I am convinced that the only reasonable approach to weight loss is by accepting our basic body structure and eating sensibly.
3.How do you respond to the previous sentence?
How do you think your daughter would respond?

You can be certain that your daughter is reading and watching other stories about body image and weight loss, that she and her friends are telling each other their own stories, and that she is wondering about your story.
4.How do you feel about telling your daughter your body image and weight loss story?
What are you afraid of?

Talk about a time when someone else’s story impacted you positively.

How might your story help your daughter?

9. Chapter 9

At the beginning of the continuum of anorexia, your daughter may skip a meal in order to lose a few pounds for an upcoming event. As your daughter experiments with eating and not eating, her choices may have a positive impact or only a minor negative impact on her overall well-being.
1.After reading this chapter, are you aware of any warning signs that indicate your daughter might be struggling with anorexia?

Looking back, when did this struggle begin?
How have you responded to the warning signs?

After reading this chapter, what would you like to do in response to your concerns about your daughter?
Ask another mom to pray specifically for you with regard to your response.

There are multitudinous reasons for girls getting trapped in anorexia. And certain personality traits or life experiences set girls up for this disorder.
2.Of the traits and experiences listed, what best applies to your daughter?
What would it take for you to feel equipped to address the personality traits and life experiences that have set your daughter up for a struggle with anorexia?

3.What did you identify about yourself in the quiz on pgs. 166-167?
Did anything surprise you?

What did you like about what the quiz revealed about your mothering?
What would you like to change?

Meeting the casualties of anorexia has made prevention my passion.
4.After reading this chapter, what you aware of that you would like to change in your mothering and your home to become intentional about preventing anorexia.

10. Chapter 10

There are two important factors that are foundational in responding to our daughters wherever they might be on the continuum of bulimia. First, we must give them the message that we see what is happening, and second, that our love and respect for them is not diminished.
1.After reading this chapter, what warning signs have your observed that might indicate that your daughter is struggling with bulimia?

How have you responded to these signs in the past?
What message do you think your response has sent to your daughter?

What about the struggle of bulimia makes it difficult for you to love and respect your daughter?

The suggestibility of adolescent girls requires that eating disorders be talked about most openly and thoroughly between mother and daughters.
2.Share about some of your experiences of talking with your daughter about eating disorders.

If you have not talked about this subject, why?
What message do you think you have sent to your daughter?

Do you feel like an eating disorder is stronger than you are? Why? Why not?
Ask for prayer from other mother to overcome your fear.

Likewise, as we examine the roots of bulimia we can give a wondrous gift of redemption to our daughters as well help them understand the reasons for what they done–reasons that are rooted in their unique personalities and experiences as well as the dynamics of family.
3.After reading this chapter, what are you aware of that has contributed to your daughter’s struggle with bulimia?

If you feel guilty for any of these factors, what can you change? Let go of?

Explain to your daughter that she is up against something she can’t fight alone and that you want to be in the fight with her.
4.What is your initial response to the previous sentence?

What is overwhelming about this fight for you?
What do you believe you can offer your daughter in this fight?
If you feel inadequate, where can you get help?

11. Chapter 11

Even if you have never struggled with your weight, your daughter’s struggle must be approached with a “we’re in this together” attitude.
1.Talk about your own struggles with weight.
How are your struggles similar to your daughter’s? Different?

If you have not struggled with weight, how has this impacted your attitude toward your daughter’s struggle?

There are two kinds of eaters–those who eat according to external controls and those who eat in response to internal cues.
2.What kind of eater are you? Your daughter?
Talk about a time when you ate in response to internal cues. External?

What type of eating is most encouraged and modeled in your home?

After reading the suggestions in this chapter, what changes would you like to make?
What changes seem least probable? Why?

When we, as women, do not accept our own bodies, we create a climate for eating disorders to flourish in our daughters.
3.What kind of “body image climate” is in your home?
If you feel guilty about what you have modeled or encouraged, what can you change? Let go of?

Have you accept your body type? If so, how did you do this?
If not, what would it take for you to accept the body God has given you?

One of the gifts of our inevitable struggle in a culture that assaults body image on every side is that we can go to our Creator with our questions, hurts, and disappointments?
4.Have you ever asked, “God, why did you make me like this?”
Has your daughter?

Talk about your experiences of going to God with body image and eating struggles.
If you don’t have such experiences, why?

Brainstorm together about ways that you can include God in this part of your life and your mothering.

Customer Reviews