In the age of social media, the Internet, reality TV, and pop culture, women and girls face an enormous amount of pressure to look a certain way or be a certain weight. More now than ever, weight and body image concerns create an immense amount of anxiety for women, but increasingly more so for young girls. Girls’ dissatisfaction manifests around body image, particularly weight, at an alarmingly young age:
• Over 80 percent of 10-year-old girls are afraid of being fat.
• By middle school, 40-70 percent of girls are dissatisfied with two or more parts of their body, and body satisfaction hits rock bottom between the ages of 12 and 15.
And while it’s natural to be concerned about our daughters’ weight and to encourage them to be healthy, a recent study from Cornell Food & Brand Lab says that one of the best things you can do to encourage healthy weight and positive body image is … don’t talk about her weight!
The study published in Eating and Weight Disorders surveyed 501 women between the ages of 20 and 35 and asked them to recall how often their parent(s) commented on their weight. The findings showed that women whose parents were less likely to comment on their weight or how much food they ate were also less likely to be overweight as adults. Interestingly, women who recalled their parents commenting on their weight in their youth were generally more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight in adulthood, regardless of whether they were overweight or not.
“If you’re worried about your child’s weight, avoid criticizing them or restricting food. Instead, nudge healthy choices and behaviors by giving them freedom to choose for themselves and by making the healthier choices more appealing and convenient,” recommends lead author Brian Wansink. “After all, it’s the choices that children make for themselves that will lead to lifelong habits.”
If you are a parent and hope to encourage a healthy weight and positive body image in your daughter, there are many other ways to do so that won’t lead to unintended negative affects later in life.