I’m struggling with menopausal body changes and my daughter gets upset when I express my discontent.

Picture of Stacey Pinilis, LCSW

Stacey Pinilis, LCSW

Psychotherapist and Parenting Consultant

Picture of Olivia Pinilis

Olivia Pinilis

Recent College Graduate

Dear Parenting with a Pause,

I’ve been gaining weight due to menopause and every time I complain about how my clothes don’t fit me, my daughter tells me to stop trash talking my body and that I’m going to give her an eating disorder.

Is it so wrong that I express frustration about MY body’s changes? It’s a natural part of life but that doesn’t mean we have to pretend we like it. Will my daughter really get an eating disorder from this?

Please advise!

Signed, Muffin Top Mama

Dear Gorgeous Mama,

I totally understand frustration with body image and weight change. As women, we live in a society where standards of how we should look are constantly placed upon us – even if we don’t recognize it at first glance. We subconsciously (or sometimes even consciously) compare ourselves to everything we see, whether that be famous models on social media or just our friends in a pretty dress. So yeah, it does suck when your jeans don’t button.

Although I can’t say for sure, I don’t think your daughter will get an eating disorder from these comments. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t affect her. Take the words your daughter says and think about how she feels, all while not taking them personally. You are her mom, and she might even look like you. If you hate your body, that might mean you hate hers or she should hate hers. Maybe at a later time you can have an open conversation about body image. This might help shift the internalized thoughts that almost every young woman has about their ever growing and changing body. The next time you catch yourself making a comment in front of her you can say that as much as it is frustrating sometimes, you know that weight gain is a natural part of life. And it doesn’t make you any less beautiful. When your daughter’s body inevitably changes (because we are all human, so of course, at some point it will) it won’t make her any less beautiful either. Sometimes that little reminder is all we need to buy ourselves a cute new pair of jeans.

Love, Another Beautiful Daughter

Dear Muffin Top,

First of all, I feel you mama! Watching your face and body morph in front of your eyes is wild to put it nicely. What I really want to say I’m intentionally withholding. And it’s hard to do. I can actually feel myself physically refraining from saying anything really negative about myself. When you complain about your body in front of your daughter, consider what you really want to say. I think it’s ok to share your genuine feelings about this life change with your older daughter. I imagine she’s probably well established in her identity at this point and the risk of acquiring an eating disorder is pretty slim (haha). I wonder what she’s really trying to say. I’d guess that she sees you as beautiful and your aging changes aren’t as apparent to her. Your criticism of yourself might be confusing and upsetting. She wants you to see yourself as she sees you. Whole. Smart. Established. Confident. Successful. Fun. Loving. Beautiful. So, the two of you are missing a moment of genuine connection and sharing. How can you say what you want to say from a place of compassion for yourself and a place of power. Look, it’s hard to untangle from the diet culture of the 80s. Damn you Snackwell cookies! We know that when we are critical our brain hears this as truth and as a result, we feel worse. To consciously break this cycle, we must feel our feelings first and watch that harsh inner critic. Once you get in touch with what is truly going on for yourself, you can connect with your daughter about aging and menopause in a meaningful way that feels true to you. You got this mama! Please let us know how it goes!

Sincerely, Stacey


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