How To Talk To Your Kids About Weight

You might find the occasional, "you're gaining weight" comment from your mother to be harmless: after all, she just wants you to be healthy. But these kinds of comments probably still evoke feelings of shame and guilt, especially if you have been hearing them since you were young. If you aren't careful, you might find yourself passing on that shame around food and health to your own children.

Having open and honest conversations with your kids about health and weight is important, but using the wrong words when discussing it can lead to serious health consequences in the future. A study conducted by the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health found that words like "overweight," "fat," and "extremely obese," made over one-third of children feel shameful and guilty, regardless of their body type (via US News). Researchers found that talking about a healthy or "normal" weight with your child by pointing out where they have not yet measured up might not be the right approach. Even if you have good intentions, it is easy to communicate criticism and judgment about your children's bodies when discussing their weight.

Focus on the positives when discussing healthy habits with your kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics found that focusing on weight loss as a child can lead to unhealthy relationships with food and even eating disorders later in adolescence and adulthood. It's also important to remember that children's bodies fluctuate as they grow. Having a discussion about them being overweight while they are still developing can be premature. Per US News, specialist Rebecca Puhl "recommends parents shift the conversation to health rather than to body weight." Try teaching your kids about habits that will make you happier: remind them that eating veggies and being active will benefit their mental health, that they will have more energy to play, and will grow strong. All of these comments have nothing to do with weight, rather they encourage healthy habits without pointing out flaws in their body's shape and size.

The phrase, "do as I say, not as I do," doesn't really apply when it comes to healthy eating and lifestyle habits. NPR suggests modeling behaviors you want your children to learn with your own healthy habits. Rather than subscribing to every fad diet you see on Instagram, encourage healthy eating by incorporating nutrient-rich foods into your family's diet. Instead of taking your child to your gym or placing them on your restrictive meal program, try enrolling them in activities that encourage physical activity and exercising as a family.