My daughter complains that she's fat. What should I do?

Take it seriously. Research shows that body image is tied to key aspects of kids' (and adults') emotional and physical well-being and that dissatisfaction with one's body can be connected to serious mental health problems including eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. Having a healthy image of oneself is a critical component of healthy development, on which many other positive health and life outcomes depend.

Sadly, body dissatisfaction and unhealthy behaviors related to poor self-image among kids and teens appear to be on the rise in the U.S., while appearance ideals have become increasingly unrealistic.

Media does affect kids' body image, so take inventory of what your daughter is watching, reading, playing, and interacting with (and consider how you talk about your own body). It's entirely possible that there's nothing behind her comment other than a momentary weakness in self-confidence. But it could be more than that. Probe a little more. If you feel her self-criticism is out of sync with reality, consult your pediatrician.

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