Stay at Home Moms

VENT: SIL told my niece to "tone up"

Our niece is down for the summer staying with MIL. She is 16, super  funny and unique- I adore her to no end.Watching her grow up has been amazing.  Like most teenagers she obsesses and worries about her body, she was telling me today she did not like her stomach.She is beautiful and actually very thin so everything she is seeing in the mirror is major body dismorphia. She was pointing out all these tiny details on her belly that almost everyone I know has. 

We talked about it for a bit and I told her a bit about how I used to do the same thing as a teenager and it really was an obsession to look a certain way and I was not seeing "the truth in the mirror". I was honest that it was a long journey to learning self acceptance and love. We talked about being healthy and happy and how we can be our own worst enemy. Basically I was just open about my own struggles and answered her questions and assured her that she was beautiful(inside and out) and also health. We have always talked about things. I still remember the summer she asked me about boys. Her mom knows we talk and encourages me to be open with her and to be an aunt she can come to and get insight on life. 

Then she said that she had mentioned hating her stomach to BIL's wife and she said she did not need to lose weight, "just work hard on toning her stomach up a bit." Niece seemed worried because she did not know how to do this

 I am (maybe irrationally) annoyed. BIL's wife has body image issues so I'm not shocked she said this. I mean this is the women who got a boob job a day after her son came home from a leg surgery with a cast. I guess she could have said worse, way worse.  But I just feel like this was a stupid thing to say to our niece while she is obviously seeing herself in such a skewed way! She was just worried about non exsistant body fat and talking to her Aunts because she wants adult women input, why plant a seed for her to now obsess over not being toned enough? She is 16 and very impressionable. Now she is obsessed with the need to be toned. She needs to be worrying about college and friends, and all having fun, not the need to tone up. 

Would you ever suggest a teenage girl with body image issues needs to "tone up"? I just can't see anyone thinking this is the right thing to say! 
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Re: VENT: SIL told my niece to "tone up"

  • I'd have rather heard ''tone up'' over ''lose some weight'' when I was growing up; but that's just because it's the lesser of two evils.
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  • image Courtimilk:
    I'd have rather heard ''tone up'' over ''lose some weight'' when I was growing up; but that's just because it's the lesser of two evils.


    yea that is why I said she could have said worse and I was feeling like I was unnecessarily annoyed. I would have rather heard that as well, but I would have obsessed over it just the same and made myself miserably worried that I was not toned enough. I really thought about why it bugged me so much and I think it's because 16 is one of those ages where you are on the cusp and just easily inpresioanble. She has all that pressure to look a certain way. I feel like if she talks to her Aunts about these pressures it's probably because she is really feeling pressure, not the time to tell her what she could change. She is actully a bit naturally toned. If a friend had said that t her that is one thing I suppose, but her Aunt...I mean why not just talk up health and positive body image. Why did she have to tell her to change something. 
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  • I agree with everyone this child sounds normal. Teens obsess about everything. Throwing around true mental illnesses is not cool. Maybe she took it wrong as most teens do. 
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  • I also don't see a problem.  It is possible to be thin and still need to "tone up"  I am one of those people.  I am naturally thin, but out of shape.  My sister, who is actually slightly overweight, is more fit than I am because she exercises regularly.  I am out of breath after a few minutes of jogging, and she runs half marathons.  I don't see telling someone to tone up to be a bad thing, I think I just equate it to exercising which is a good habit for a teenage girl.

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  • I think it's sad.

    Is it the worst thing she could have said?  No.  But I think women, and especially young women, really need to hear messages of acceptance.  We don't have to be society's idea of perfection.  By saying she doesn't need to lose weight but tone up she's still hearing that her body as-is isn't beautiful, but if she just does X it might be.  That's not the right message to be sending.  

    I mean... I guess if it was put to her more like in the context of what you discussed and then you told her you really don't think she needs to lose weight at all, but if she is uncomfortable with her stomach she might try some toning exercises like ______.  But, I would guess, that's not the context of how this comment was made.  I'm guessing it was made like, no, you don't need to lose weight, but you do need to tone up.  Not the right message to send IMO.

    I think you handled the topic perfectly.   

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  • Not having been there, I really can't judge. It could be that BIL's wife said, "Honey, you look great, but if you're that concerned about your stomach I can show you a couple exercises to tone up the muscles."

  • image Mrs.Hizzo:
    Not having been there, I really can't judge. It could be that BIL's wife said, "Honey, you look great, but if you're that concerned about your stomach I can show you a couple exercises to tone up the muscles."

    I think this could be the case or it might have have been inappropriate like you suspect.  I do think it is really important to be super careful about how you talk to teenage girls about any body issues because what should be a harmless comment can have a negative impact.  

    If you are really bothered by it, depending on your relationship with those involved, I would consider doing one of two things.

     1. Bring it up casually with your SIL and say something like "yeah, niece was talking with me about some insecurities about her body.  I really hope she doesn't get hung up on this--she is a healthy weight and I wish she'd realize that" or something and see what she says and even if y'all don't get beyond that maybe it will plant a seed in SIL's head to be careful.

     2.  Consider mentioning it to your niece's mom just so she knows, and let her decide how she feels about it and if she wants to do anything. I think this totally depends on your relationship with niece's mom and whether you trust her not to say anything to niece that would make her feel like you betrayed her confidence and whether you trust her not to cause drama between you and SIL

    regardless, I think you handled the discussion with your niece perfectly.  You sound like a great aunt! 


  • I 100% chose the wrong choice of words, it was late, I was jumping on during a later feeding session, and I'm sorry. I was in no one implying she had a disorder and even said that I felt she what she was saying was 100% normal. I think i was annoyed because of the WAY my niece was taking it and the fact she kept bringing it up like she thought it was something really worth truly worrying about. . She was sayings he now had to lose weight AND tone up. She did not take it like she should just tone up if she did not like something, she took it like she had to tone up or be ugly. I think it annoys me because of the way niece took it. I guess I just feel like my niece felt bad that she was not toned now ON TOP of feeling her stomach was to big. I don't know if she meant to do that but I just wanted to say the right thin
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  • image Socialworkgirl:

    image Mrs.Hizzo:
    Not having been there, I really can't judge. It could be that BIL's wife said, "Honey, you look great, but if you're that concerned about your stomach I can show you a couple exercises to tone up the muscles."

    I think this could be the case or it might have have been inappropriate like you suspect.  I do think it is really important to be super careful about how you talk to teenage girls about any body issues because what should be a harmless comment can have a negative impact.  

    If you are really bothered by it, depending on your relationship with those involved, I would consider doing one of two things.

     1. Bring it up casually with your SIL and say something like "yeah, niece was talking with me about some insecurities about her body.  I really hope she doesn't get hung up on this--she is a healthy weight and I wish she'd realize that" or something and see what she says and even if y'all don't get beyond that maybe it will plant a seed in SIL's head to be careful.

     2.  Consider mentioning it to your niece's mom just so she knows, and let her decide how she feels about it and if she wants to do anything. I think this totally depends on your relationship with niece's mom and whether you trust her not to say anything to niece that would make her feel like you betrayed her confidence and whether you trust her not to cause drama between you and SIL

    regardless, I think you handled the discussion with your niece perfectly.  You sound like a great aunt! 



    I'm close with her mom and we have a very open family. I think I was just put off because BIL's wife reverts back to a teenager it seems when niece is around. We have heard her say things before that SIL and MIL have later talked to niece about. I mean I'm sure she does not mean to, I think it's just how she is and niece takes it to heart because she loves her. 
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  • image nonasimonsen:
    I agree Body Dismorphic Dissorder doesn't apply hear and she also doesn't sound truely Obsessed. She is a teen. All normal. I think you are projecting your own issues on to her.


    It's possible. I don't really have the issues now but as a teenager I used to. My mom used to say things like "if you would just do _____ you would look ___". I reached that point where I just hated everything. I would change it and move on to the next flaw. I don't feel like that now but hearing niece point out every flaw triggered it and I did feel like yI was alking to my teenage salf, saying no your beautiful. Just be healthy. Don't feel like you have to look like ____. I started crying while writing this so maybe you are right and hearing that just stirred up the way I used to feel in that situation.  
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  • image Andrewsgal:
    I agree with everyone this child sounds normal. Teens obsess about everything. Throwing around true mental illnesses is not cool. Maybe she took it wrong as most teens do. 


    I 100% agree it is not cool and I used the wrong words. I feel terrible. You are 100% right, I was not thinking of it in that context and I should have chose the words more careful. 
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