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A Mom’s Letter To Her Daughter

My Sweet Girl,

Yesterday I heard you tell your dad that you looked “fat.” It hurt my heart to hear you say that, and I’m afraid I didn’t know what to say or how to respond. After thinking about it some more, here is what I would like to tell you.

Most of the time when we call a body “fat,” we mean it in a hurtful way. This is because we live in a society that believes that to be fat is a bad thing. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it has to be said over and over: there is nothing wrong with fat. It’s gotten a bad rap, and it doesn’t deserve its reputation.

Every body is a good body. There are no bodies that are better or worse than others. This knowledge is rebellious. It goes against our culture’s messed up fatphobic beliefs. Join me in the rebellion!

But knowing this is not enough. Even rebels have bad body thoughts. So the next thing you need to know is that when we have a bad body thought, it’s usually standing in for a difficult feeling. When we feel tired, lonely, overwhelmed, sad or afraid, our minds can’t figure out what to do, so instead they give us a bad body thought. Our minds figure a bad body thought is better than feeling sad, lonely, or afraid.

“I feel/look/am fat” often means “I feel overwhelmed,” “I feel angry,” “I feel lonely,” etc. I’m pretty sure that when you said “I look fat” last night you were both exhausted and overwhelmed. I’m pretty sure you were also a little bit frustrated.

This is why it’s helpful, any time you have a bad body thought – any time you look in the mirror and say any version of “I look fat,” to get curious about the difficult feeling that it’s hiding. Bad body thoughts are going to happen, and you’re not wrong, stupid, or bad when you have a bad body thought. Even the strongest rebels have them. I only ask that when you have a bad body thought, you close your eyes, and think to yourself:

I’m having a bad body thought. What’s the feeling underneath this bad body thought? Am I lonely? Am I scared? Am I overwhelmed? Am I sad? Am I angry? What am I really feeling?

You don’t need to have the answers to these questions. Also, this isn’t some sort of magic spell that will take the bad feelings away. But just asking the questions is a good way to take the sting out of the bad body thought. And it’s better than the alternative, which is to believe the bad body thought and take it at face value. Remember: bad body thoughts are a cover for difficult feelings.

I’m so sorry that we live in a society that tells us our bodies are wrong. I’m so sorry that as females we face more scrutiny of our bodies and pressure to conform to societal expectations. I wish I could change our society for you. I wish I could tell you that you will never have bad body thoughts. But I cannot. All I can tell you is that it’s normal. And that you’re OK.

Oh … and that you can fight back with all of your rebel heart.

But also … when your rebel heart gets tired, and when your bad body thoughts are raging, I hope you will reach out to me. I promise to acknowledge that your bad body thoughts are happening. And they suck. And they make sense. I’ll be here when the difficult feelings underneath the bad body thoughts show their faces, and I’ll be here to give you more love, more attention, more support, and a shoulder to cry on as you work through them.

I love you so much.

Love, Mom

Rachel Levi, LMFT, CEDS, F- IAEDPFounder/Clinical Director
Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment

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