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.

One 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. I honestly don’t agree with this article. I believe it’s how you approach the subject matter about weight management with your daughter is vital. My daughter is very thin, just like I used to be, and she’s currently in her first year of College. Well, you know what happens during those years, you can grow sideways instead of upwards if you don’t watch what you eat and exercise. So, I do remind her to watch her portion size and encourage her to exercise as much as she can. In addition to that, I call her my “pretty baby”. I do my best to not stress weight gain, but making healthy choices. Similar to what Advocate’s “Healthe You” program encourages us to do if you follow the program. I believe the subject matter should be approached in positive choosing our words wisely.

  2. I would have really been bothered if my mom tried to give me tips on how to avoid the “freshman 15” when I went to college. Girls are already extremely conscious of their bodies as young adults and it seems that if a person has mostly healthy habits a parent should let the young adult make their own decisions and avoid making image such a concern. My BMI as a 29 year old woman is currently 22, not too shabby for a short girl (5’3) who was a little bit chubby between the ages of 10 and 13. I am so lucky that my parents never concerned themselves with my baby weight and awkward few years- they let me be a kid and make informed decisions on my own- and they set a great example with their own habits so it wasn’t that hard! I have a cousin who was not so lucky… when we were growing up, her mom constantly talked about what we were eating and let my cousin know if she was gaining or losing weight on any given day. Well, that cousin is now 25 years old and is anorexic and faces other emotional issues as well. I’m not saying this is all her mother’s fault, but being a witness to it, I know those comments on her weight and body played a very big part in my cousin having an unhealthy relationship with food and skewed image of herself. Even if you are telling someone how great they look because they are thin can be a bit poisonous- tell someone they look great just because they do, because they are happy and it shows- not because they are skinny! This article makes a lot of sense I appreciate you taking the time to get it out there!

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.