Maybe DON'T Talk to Your Kids About Weight

Your daughter's eating habits drive you crazy.  A yogurt for breakfast, a pear for lunch, and a salad for dinner.  But you know what?  Bugging her about it, even just talking to her about it, can make for even more unhealthy behavior, a new study has found.

According to, "Conversations between parents and adolescents that focus on weight and size are associated with an increased risk for unhealthy adolescent weight-control behaviors."

The study also found that overweight or obese adolescents whose mothers talked only healthful eating behaviors were less likely to diet and use unhealthy weight-control behaviors and a significantly lower chance of dieting (40 percent to over 53 percent, respectively).

“Because adolescence is a time when more youths engage in disordered eating behaviors, it is important for parents to understand what types of conversations may be helpful or harmful in regard to disordered eating behaviors and how to have these conversations with their adolescents,” quotes Jerica M. Berge, Ph.D., M.P.H., L.M.F.T., of the University of Minnesota Medical School, and colleagues write in the study background.

I've always struggled with my weight, from anorexia in middle and high school to living on doughnuts and pizza and ice cream in college (that "freshman fifteen"!), to losing the weight three times and putting it back on after pregnancy and breast cancer.

I don't recall my parents bugging me that much about my weight, though my mother, who was always thin, made snide comments from time to time ("do you really need all that butter?").

"Study results also showed that weight conversations from one parent or from both parents were associated with a significantly higher prevalence of dieting relative to parents who engaged in only healthful eating conversations (35.2 percent and 37.1 percent vs. 21.2 percent, respectively)," reports. The study also found that adolescents whose fathers engaged in weight conversations were significantly more likely to engage in dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors than adolescents whose fathers did not.

With society's focus on razor-thin models (who probably eat one meal a month), it's hard for our girls not to feel they, too, have to be able to slip into doll-sized clothes.  But parents can do a lot to, if not prevent, at least alleviate somewhat the pressure.

When my son was in preschool, a classmate said she could only eat half her sandwich because she didn't want to gain weight.  And this child was four!

"For parents who may wonder whether talking with their adolescent child about eating habits and weight is useful or detrimental, results from this study indicate that they may want to focus on discussing and promoting healthful eating behaviors rather than discussing weight and size, regardless of whether their child is thin or overweight,” the authors conclude.


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