For Parents Worried- body image issues in 8 year old

Parents... Coaches... Judges... Gymnasts...
DON'T LURK... Join The Discussion!

Members See FEWER Ads!
Join for FREE!
Not open for further replies.


Proud Parent
Oct 16, 2013
My 8 year old DD is having body image issues lately, saying her legs and arms look fat. This is devastating for me to hear because she is so beautiful and strong and thin. I tell her all the time how beautiful, strong, healthy, talented, smart, etc she is. I would love to hear from other parents who may have dealt with this about things that helped; books, websites, etc. I want to try to stop this negative thinking before she develops an eating disorder.



Proud Parent
Mar 25, 2012
region II
Eight year old's say lots of things that raise red flags, but they seldom mean them the way we hear them. I'm not saying your concerns are unfounded, as every parent should be proactive when it comes to keeping their child from harm. Could it be that she envies another child's physical gifts, and has no negative feelings about her body. If so, is that something to worry about, because many of us would like to have one thing or another, but do nothing to realize those desires..... maybe this is the case with her.


Proud Parent
Nov 5, 2013
My 10yr old DD is very similar, recently she's been saying she's fat. The issue has stemmed, as I found out, from her comparing herself to the older girls in the gym that she admires, who are actually strong and toned rather than being skinny.

We've had several long sit down chats about it all, explaining over the next 10yrs of her life, her body is going to change and there's nothing she can do to stop it. All she can do is accept who she is every day and be happy she's healthy.

She's still going on about getting "lines" on her stomach, but is now focusing on the fact that makes her muscles strong rather than her skinny.


Proud Parent
Aug 2, 2013
I think you hit the nail on the head discussing "health" with your daughter instead of weight. I don't think my daughters have ever heard me utter the words "fat" or "thin"...just my constant quest to get more "healthy". :)

I do think a lot of the time the body image issues come and go. Over the summer my 10 year old refused to wear tank tops outside of gym because she was embarrassed by how big her muscular arms and shoulders made her look-and just like you this broke my heart. It was the last thing I thought we'd ever have to worry about with her because frankly she's so confident, and the picture of a health.

Like you xrachx I think she was comparing herself to other girls, but girls outside the gym, and just trying to figure out what "normal" is. I worked hard not to make a huge deal about it, I did explain her body shows off all her hard work and she should be proud. Fortunately, it seemed to be more of a passing thing.


Proud Parent
Apr 14, 2010
Have you asked her why she is saying this? 8 year olds frequently do not really understand what they are saying or hearing. Someone had to have planted this seed in her head. If you can figure out where or what happened that will help you deal with it.

I always emphasize how different everyone looks. They might look similar at school, but put a group of girls in leotards and you will see drastic differences. And I find it amazing that so many different body sizes and shapes can do the same awesome skills. No 2 people are alike and the sooner we can teach our girls to embrace who they are the better.
  • Like
Reactions: gymmomtoo


Proud Parent
Proud Parent
Jul 22, 2010
Around that same age, my DD looked at a picture of herself in a leo and said, "I look fat." Like you, I worried a lot. I even talked to her teacher at school whose daughter was a gymnast, so I thought she might be able to offer some advice. Instead she said, "Oh, I have the opposite problem. My daughter in college needs to lose weight but she seems perfectly happy with the ways she looks..." Yikes! Wrong person to turn to for help with this. But, to be honest, DD hasn't ever said anything like that (to me) since then. I guess I would say to just keep an eye on things. If it continues or if you suspect she is limiting her food intake, then it's time to talk to her pediatrician or a counselor. My dear friend's daughter is anorexic and I have read some books on the topic. In one of them, a memoir of the mother of an anorexic daughter, the daughter had actually done a report on anorexia for school before she became anorexic and the mother at one point wondered if maybe knowing so much about the disease actually somehow contributed to her developing it. Obviously, that's not a scientific study or anything, and in general I subscribe to the "knowledge is power" approach to most things, but even that much anecdotal evidence makes me nervous about having my own kids read books about anorexia (especially since my daughters are a dancer and a gymnast, groups which already seem to be "at risk" for developing an eating disorder). Anyway, I hope that, like it appears to have been with my DD, it is just a phase that she will pass quickly out of, but good for you for keeping your mommy antenna tuned for such things!


Proud Parent
Oct 26, 2009
DD thinks she's fat too, because she can pinch a bunch of skin on her tummy - the same tummy that shows the clear outline of highly developed ab muscles. She also thinks her legs are big, but they are all muscle.

She hates that her rib cage is on the wide side, whereas her best friend's is very narrow - thus the best friend has a very slim looking midsection and DD doesn't.

DD isn't close to any eating disorder though - that girl loves her food!


Proud Parent
May 15, 2013
The topic (the epidemic) of expectations of how women should look is so far reaching. It's impossible to shield our beautiful daughter's from the constant pressure coming from the photoshopped ads, Hollywood, the rail-thin models - everything that shouts at them to strive for that unattainable, narrow window of 'perfection'.

I want my DD to have role models who embody amazing strength and health, representing a wide diversity of body types and shapes.

I want to make sure when she hears the word 'pretty' or 'beautiful' that it is not limited to women who embody a narrow window of physical attributes.

I also want her to truly believe and embody that the worth of a woman - a person - is not tied to a body shape. I want her path to be inspired by the smart, strong, and kind - to point out and admire with her the women (and men) scientists, athletes, philanthropists, and kindness of everyday people... and hope these qualities become more central to her sense of being than the size of her hips.

Combatting the beauty=self-worth culture is a tall order, but we soldier on.

Gymnastics, I believe, is one great place for inspiration - to strive for strength, health and accomplishment, rather than a size or shape. I try to emphasize my amazement at her power, commitment, or skill rather than her abs (though her abs are to die for, I try not to make 'looks' the point). It's a great opportunity to point out the range of shapes and sizes that can all do amazing things (for example watching college gymnastics shows a range, and even in our gym there are the twiggy-but-strong alongside the shapely, full-bodied powerhouses at L9-10.)

Sounds like your DD is getting all the right inputs from you emphasizing her more meaningful qualities beyond her body shape. Keep planting those seeds and lead by example with everything she sees you admire! :)

-soapbox off- ;)
Not open for further replies.