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.