Why you shouldn't talk to your daughter about her weight.

If our children are overweight, should we talk to them about it? Or is it better to spare them the shame of the f-word? It’s the dilemma plaguing modern parents.

The New York Times has flagged new research that gives us an answer: do not talk to your kids about weight.

We’re often told that we should be open with our kids about everything. That it’s much better to prepare them for the brutality of the “real world”, which has no place for sensitivity. But what happens when our attempts to “toughen up” our kids makes it harder for them in the long run?

What the research tells us 

Although we mean well, trying to get our kids to lose weight is a touchy subject. There’s a fine line between gently encouraging them to exercise and making them think that they’re fat.

The study, titled “Don’t eat so much: how parent comments relate to female weight satisfaction”, is from the journal Eating & Weight Disorders. It shows that parents’ comments are often much more harmful than they think.

It’s such a difficult subject for any parent. And often, it feels like a tug-of-war between their mental and physical health.

Researchers asked 501 young women between the ages of 20 and 35 questions about their body image. They also asked them to remember how frequently their parents made comments about their weight. The women who remembered their parents’ comments said they felt the need to lose a significant amount of weight.

Comments on kids’ weight had repercussions for years afterward, as children often internalize them and struggle to let go of negative feelings. Down the track, this leads to unhealthy dieting behaviors, binge eating and other eating disorders.

What you can do about it

It’s such a difficult subject for any parent. And often, it feels like a tug-of-war between their mental and physical health.

According to the CDC, childhood obesity affects one in six children and adolescents. So, how can we fight this epidemic without impacting kids’ long-term mental wellbeing?

Making kids feel good about themselves while trying to get them to lose weight feels like an impossible task, but there are ways around it.

The Times quotes Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, a professor at the University of Minnesota: “I try to promote the idea of talking less and doing more—doing more to make your home a place where it’s easy to make healthy eating and physical activity choices, and talking less about weight.”

The key point? Less talk, more action. Don’t buy sugary drinks or unhealthy foods, get them out of the house and bond with them through physical exercise. Leading by example is a great way to do it.

Bonding with your kids, getting them healthy, and avoiding negative body image—all at the same time. Sounds like the perfect recipe.

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