The heartbreaking post prompts a necessary discussion on body image in young girls—and how parents can play a more positive role in preventing disordered eating.

By Beth Ann Mayer
May 20, 2021
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Body shaming doesn't just temporarily sting our self-esteem (regardless of age)—it can have dangerous health consequences, too. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry estimates that 10 percent of young women struggle with an eating disorder, which can lead to (sometimes irreversible) damage to the gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and endocrine systems, according to the National Eating Disorders Association.

An image of a present on a blue background.
Credit: Getty Images.

And while body shaming in any shape or form is hard, when it's a parent doing the bullying, that's especially painful, as one teen recently experienced. But the saddest part? She thought she might have been in the wrong, no thanks to awful parenting by her own father.

Here's how the heartbreaking Reddit thread unfolded:

"I want a perspective on this issue," started u/hopefullyhappytaurus in the AITA subreddit. "I honestly understand why my dad is mad at me, but I just don't want to put up with this anymore."

The daughter mentioned that her dad's girlfriend frequently shames her body. "[Dad's girlfriend] was a very fat girl who suffered bullying about her weight," the teen continued. "This made her change her lifestyle to an extremely 'healthy' one: She goes six days a week to the gym and barely eats. She has gone to a ton of nutrition professionals and comes back super mad because apparently, they told her that she needs to eat more protein/vegetables/whatever. Plus, she kinda hates the fact that she doesn't have a waist like a Kardashian."

(FYI: Her dad's girlfriend isn't just displaying unhealthy habits—those are telltale signs of an eating disorder.)

The poster says she frequently doles out a ton of unsolicited and cruel advice to her, including, "You should have thinner arms, so you are more attractive" and "You should consider a breast reduction and have some fat removed from the butt, just saying."

As the daughter put it: "She hates people that are fat…or are comfortable with having a little fat on their bodies."

Somehow, things get worse. The daughter recently turned 19, and the girlfriend gave her a present—an extra-small dress, even though the teen wears size large. The poster explains the girlfriend's reasoning was that it might motivate the teen to lose weight, and that she should also skip having any of her own birthday cake.

Despite the painful badgering, the poster managed to stay composed and gave the perfect clap back.

"I just smiled and thanked her but told her I didn't want it," she said. "I am happy with my body, and I don't care if I am fat or thin in her eyes." Next, the girlfriend went to the car, Dad called his daughter ungrateful, and the daughter wanted to know: Was she in the wrong?

Thankfully, many Reddit commenters had the poster's back—it's too bad her father didn't.

"The girlfriend is unwell, and the dad is putting up with it at the expense of his kids," said one commenter.

And one Redditor really got to the heart of the issue: "She's projecting her issues onto [the poster]. I find that despicable," the person wrote.

It's no secret that society has impossibly high beauty standards for girls and women. That harmed this girlfriend, and that wasn't ok. But what's also not okay is the trauma she's now inflicting on someone else. Experts stress that we need to teach kids that it's what's on the inside that counts, so they don't feel pressured to live up to an arbitrary, unhealthy standard.

Want tips on how to speak to a child in your life about fat (if they bring it up)? This mom handled it well when her daughter called her fat. She said, "The truth is, I am not fat. No one IS fat. It's not something you can BE. But I do HAVE fat. We ALL have fat. It protects our muscles and our bones and keeps our bodies going by providing us energy."