Learn more about the harmful effects of diet and weight talk around kids.
Diet talk includes any conversation about restricting foods or food groups for the sake of wanting to change one’s body weight, size, or shape.
Weight talk is any mention of anyone’s weight (even a stranger or someone on TV).
Diet Talk: Why Does it Matter that We Avoid It?
Diet talk is so common that we often don’t even notice how prevalent it is. From labeling foods with moral value (good/bad or clean/junk) to restrictive practices, engaging in diet talk around kids sets them up to feel a heavy burden when it comes to food.
But, you might be wondering, aren’t there certain foods that are better for us? Shouldn’t we help kids learn how to make healthy food choices?
While it is true that certain foods provide more nutritional value than others, the reality is that kids can get proper nutrition when they practice balance with food–not perfection. Practicing balance means including whole foods and leaving space for food as a part of community, celebration, and more.
When we overemphasize nutrition and “perfect” eating, we teach kids to feel stressed and shameful around food. And, that’s the last thing any of us want! Balance matters. Leaving space for the fun in food matters. And, nutritional needs matter.
Research shows that weight (or body shape) talk has a negative impact on kids. Talking negatively in front of kids about your weight, their weight, or someone else’s weight (or body shape) is a known contributor to negative self-perception at a young age. This includes body comments, judgment, and teasing. Even seemingly positive comments about weight can be harmful, because it may reinforce unhealthy behaviors like food restriction, excessive exercise, or other harmful behaviors.
But what about health? Isn’t being mindful of weight important?
Focusing on weight does not contribute to a healthier lifestyle. This is proven by research. Plus, size does not equate to health. People can be healthy at any size because health is about so much more than just weight. It’s your wellbeing, mental health, degree of connection to others, activity, passion, spirit, and so much more. By shifting our focus away from weight, we can focus on more important aspects of health and wellbeing.
What if I want to compliment someone on how they look? Is that okay?
Compliments are great! But, you never know how others may be interpreting them. For example, let’s say you compliment your child’s friend on how nice they look. Your child may think that they look nice because they look a certain way. And, your child’s friend may be engaging in unhealthy behaviors to look that way. That’s why it’s smarter to focus on compliments about qualities, personality, and traits.
Instead of, “you look so skinny in that dress,” try “you look so happy” or “I love that you picked out your own outfit today!” For other helpful tips like this, check out our What *to* Say page. To get even more ideas like this, sign our pledgeand we’ll email you tips every month.