What parents shouldn’t talk about with their daughters

What parents shouldn’t talk about with their daughters

When it comes to discussions about weight with your kids, less is more, at least with your daughters.

A new study has found that women whose parents had commented on their weight as kids were more likely to be unhappy with their bodies as adults.

Researchers from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab studied 501 women between the ages of 20 and 35. The women were asked questions about their BMI (body mass index), eating habits and whether they were satisfied with their weight. They were also asked whether they remembered their parents commenting on their weight when they were younger.

The researchers found that women with a healthy BMI were 27 percent less likely to recall their parents commenting on their weight and 28 percent less likely to remember their parents telling them they were eating too much compared to women who were overweight. Interestingly, both healthy weight and overweight women whose parents commented on their weight as kids reported being less satisfied with their weight as adults.

“I believe the study has some merit. In fact, these findings are very common from what I see in my practice,” says Sarah Katula, a psychiatric advanced practice nurse at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “But it’s important to note that there are many other variables at play in terms of negative body image. You can’t solely focus on the parents’ comments.”

Katula believes there are right and wrong ways to talk about healthy eating. She cautions parents to never use the word diet. Instead, if children are concerned about their weight, it’s best to talk about healthy eating and healthy behaviors.

“There are lots of things parents can do if they are concerned,” says Katula. “Children see them as role models, so if parents eat healthy and are physically active, often their kids will adopt these same behaviors.”

Finally, it’s important to help girls develop a positive body image early in life. Parents should teach their children not to judge themselves and feel shame when it comes to food intake. Empowering women early on so that they don’t think their value is in their weight is essential for a positive self-image later in life.

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  1. Let’s go a step further and point out that dieting as a teen is likely to lead to a higher BMI as an adult. Encourage exercise, not dieting.

  2. its so funny how advocate posts this and I was just in the ER yesterday getting an ultrasound when the tech wrote on my orders that I was a large women. I was very offended and felt humiliated. In a nutshell, its not about what you say its how you say it! I think its okay to discuss the importance of healthy eating with your kids, just as long as its not negative

  3. I never directly spoke to my daughter about her weight but I did change my shopping habits. I started buying healthier food, fresh fruits and vegetables. There was a noticeable change in her weight.

  4. For future I hope you are blessed w a daughter some day. You are such a blessing in my life??????

  5. Or maybe the overweight women had parents discussing their weight because they were overweight…. and not that they are overweight because their parents discussed their weight.

About the Author

Jackie Hughes
Jackie Hughes

Jacqueline Hughes is a former manager, media relations at Advocate Aurora Health. Previously, she was the public affairs and marketing manager at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. She earned her BA in psychology at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Jackie has 10 plus years experience working in television and media and most recently worked at NBC 5 in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, going to the movies and spending time with her family.