6 Steps to Dealing with Your Daughter’s Weight

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Smart moms don\’t merely manage weight issues. Smart moms actively push back against them.

Smart moms acknowledge the pressure put on girls to be thin, healthy, and perfect and then rally against these self-esteem-stealing thieves.

If you agree it’s important to be a renegade when to comes to preserving our daughters\’ body confidence, please speak loud and proud and please don\’t stop!

In the meantime, here\’s my six-step plan …

Step 1. Get Rid of the Scale

Weighing myself always feels a little like putting my self-esteem up to a guillotine. Even though I haven\’t dieted in years, a number on a scale still has the power to send a wave of self-judgment, fear, and shame straight to my soul. Sound dramatic? Can\’t relate? Even if you don\’t have a decades-long dieting history, consider this: Whenever we put our attention on something, we inadvertently send the message to our kids that it matters. If you\’re weighing yourself on-the-regular (even minus all the emotion), then you\’re sending the message to your kids that it matters. It really matters. If it didn\’t, why would you be doing it anyway?

Step 2. Designate \”Weight\” as a Dirty Word

When researchers looked at the ways that parents talk to kids about foods and eating, they found that those that talk about weight raise kids who are significantly more likely to have disordered eating habits. Specifically, their kids are more likely to restrict foods and binge, two behaviors that are risk factors for full-blown eating disorders. Think you\’re in the clear because you never pressure your kids to lose weight? Nope. Parents who talk about eating a certain way to maintain weight or to avoid gaining weight had children who fell into that high-risk group too.

Step 3. Listen Closely

Even if you\’re not preaching weight loss, you might be surprised how often weight comes up in conversation. If nothing else, get curious and listen more closely. When it is among co-workers, in media, on Netflix shows, or among family and friends, I think you’ll be surprised by just how often it comes up in conversation. All those little comments, jokes, teasing, and blatant weight-worrying wear on our kids whether we realize it or not.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m guilty of throwing the ‘w’ word around, too! A few months back I caught myself declining a dessert with the excuse, \”No thanks, I\’m watching my weight!\” I felt ashamed after I blurted it out. And yet I let it stand because I was feeling too cowardly to deal with having a conversation about the real reason I turned down a slice of birthday cake. (I have celiac disease.) Imagine: Wanting to lose weight is so common that I knew if I declined for that reason it would be easily accepted and go practically unnoticed. Sad.

Step 4. Ditch Diets for Good

In one long-term study, teenage girls who had moms who were actively dieting were significantly more likely to be pursuing a thin ideal themselves 20 years later. That means there\’s a chance your desire to slim down could leave a TWO-DECADES-LONG impression on your daughter! And those findings were regardless of where the teenagers fell on the weight spectrum, meaning underweight, “normal” weight, and overweight (measured by BMI) girls were all impacted equally. By rejecting your own body, you\’re sending girls who adore you the message that they should reject theirs too. Personally, the thought of my daughters wasting precious time obsessing about thinness makes me want to rage. If you feel the same, don\’t just ditch your own diet. Ask other influential women in their lives to ditch theirs too. 

Step 5. Stop Giving Body Compliments

When it comes to women\’s bodies, stop talking about them. Even well-meaning comments can be a zinger. When you tell another woman how \’great\’ she looks now that she’s lost weight, you\’ve just told her she\’s better now than she was before. And you can bet that if your daughter\’s within earshot, then you just told her you\’d value her more if she embodied that look too.

If you want to give a compliment, comment on how much you admire someone\’s courage, conversation skills, how hard they\’re working, their dedication, their honesty, thoughtfulness, kindness, willingness to speak out, their beautiful taste in clothes, the fact that they love every chocolate or anything. Anything except their body lives up to the thin ideal.  

Another reason to nix body comments: You have no idea where someone\’s coming from. While some women are more likely to seek a slim body ideal, not everyone\’s thinness may be something they\’re proud about—never mind have control over. Lots of kids I work with struggle to put on a couple of pounds, for instance. The fact that a slim person is meeting the YOUR ideal weight doesn’t mean it is something they\’re proud of that, that they want to be that weight nor that they worked hard to get there. I’ve known people who have gotten very thin because of illnesses such a digestive disease, depression, and extreme stress, as well as because they’re taking appetite-stealing medications such as chemotherapy. Additionally, there are cultures, races, and ethnicities that prefer softer, large bodies to leaner, thinner ones so you may even be insulting them.

Step 6. Protect Her from a Well-Meaning Pediatrician

Ah, that\’s a strong statement and is tough to write. I love pediatricians, I work with them, I trust them and, of course, I regularly take my own girls to see to them. That said, sometimes even the most accomplished, respected, and well-meaning pediatrician may not be savvy about recommended approaches for discussing topics such as weight, diet, and health. If a trusted pediatrician makes a misstep in this area, it can have a nasty impact on your child\’s self-worth. Protect kids by telling your provider ahead of time that you\’d prefer any discussion about your child\’s BMI or weight be done in private (aka without your child in the room). Make it clear that you\’re open to their encouragements to adopt healthy habits (such as getting enough sleep, limiting social media, being active, and eating mindfully), but you do not want the discussion to focus on your child\’s weight. When talking to kids yourself, always focus on habits that boost (not zap) energy, generate (not drain) self-confidence, or preserve (not diminish) self-esteem.

What are YOUR bigger, better ideas for pushing back against diet culture so it doesn\’t destroy our daughters\’ self-esteem, pleasure, and potential? Email me directly at amelia@nourishher.com or DM me via Instagram or facebook.


So how do I talk to my daughter about her weight?

If you really want to help improve or protect her health, self-esteem, and help her have a healthy (or healthier) relationship with food, then answer from this pediatric dietitian is that you don’t talk to her about it at all!

Knowing it is best to avoid talking to her about it can be a huge burden off of your shoulders. Parents are not in control of their child’s body weight—and focusing on helping them to change it backfires more often than it does them any good. Instead of trying to help her be “healthier” by being thinner, which in the end winds up harming more than anything, try different approaches and you’ll end up with a happier, healthier daughter!

Some ideas for what you can do if you’re worried about your daughter’s weight?

  • Learn more about movements such as Health at Every Size®️

  • Focus on other aspects of her life such as teaching her good self-care like recognizing what stresses her out and finding positive ways to deal with it

  • Offer her healthy, balanced, tasty and enjoyable food options (without restrictions and fear) and eat them with her

  • Let her know over and over again that you value her for more than what she looks like or how much she weighs

Of course, if your daughter brings up her own concerns or criticizes and complains about her weight then you hear her and support her. Check out this post for tips on what to do when your daughter says she feels “fat” (or something similar about not liking her body or her weight).


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