My Daughter

Supposedly Helpful Comments

Focus on Your Daughter's Food, Not Her WeightPeople hold onto some odd ideas about what constitutes helpful comments. “Don’t eat so much, you’re getting fat” are words that resonate into adulthood, especially for women. A new study by Brian Wansink, Lara Latimer, and Lizzy Pope explains how unhelpful such commentary can be.

In a cross-sectional survey of 501 women aged 20 to 35 years, the researchers asked about weight and food related comments recalled by the subjects from their childhood. They also asked standardized questions about weight satisfaction, eating habits, and BMI.

What they found is that young women who recalled their parents making comments about their weight – even among women with a healthy BMI – were significantly more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight. No such relationship was seen with comments about eating habits. Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, who was not involved in the research, offered perspective:

Parents who have a child who’s identified as having obesity may be worried, but the way those concerns are discussed can be really damaging. This observational research shows it can have a lasting impact.

Girls are exposed to so many messages about thinness and body weight, and oftentimes a woman’s value is closely linked to her appearance. If parents don’t challenge those messages, they can be internalized.

This study provides good food for thought on this Father’s Day. Dads, your words matter and they stay with your children for a lifetime. Teach your children, preferably by example, about healthy eating habits. Comments about weight are not so helpful.

Click here to read the study, here to read more from the New York Times, and here for more from the Cornell Food & Brand Lab.

My Daughter, photograph © Amélien Bayle / flickr

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June 19, 2016

7 Responses to “Supposedly Helpful Comments”

  1. June 19, 2016 at 9:48 am, LucieD said:

    No comments about the weight from father and mother is important, but there is plentifull of “good” advices or comments about the weight coming from friends, extended family, people in the streets, and most of all, from media and society that contributes more to a bad body image and weight issues than the comments from the parents.

  2. June 19, 2016 at 10:06 am, Susan Burke March said:

    What an important study, and well-written commentary. Ted, happy Father’s Day!

    • June 19, 2016 at 10:23 am, Ted said:

      Thanks, Susan!

  3. June 19, 2016 at 10:40 am, Stephen Phillips said:

    We all know the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
    As this applies to comments about ones weight….nothing could be further from the truth.
    It takes much longer to mend a broken heart then it does to mend a broken bone.
    Those that have suffered, “the slings and arrows ” of the misfortune of obesity know this by heart

    Stephen Phillips
    American Association of Bariatric Counselors .

    • June 19, 2016 at 4:24 pm, Ted said:

      Well said, Stephen.

  4. June 19, 2016 at 11:42 am, Michelle Vicari said:

    Excellent post Ted. As a teen, my father had critical words about my weight. I’m certain he thought it would help change my behavior and it did but not in a good way, it resulted in years of unhealthy eating and unsafe weight loss efforts and his words took up space in my thoughts for many years. “When you know better, you do better” and hopefully by drawing attention to studies like this we will do better.

    Excited to hear more from Dr. Wansink, when he speaks at the Your Weight Matters National Convention in August

    • June 19, 2016 at 4:23 pm, Ted said:

      You and your team have assembled an outstanding program for YWM2016 and Brian Wansink will be a star among stars. Thanks, Shelley!