What exactly is diet and weight talk anyways?

Diet talk includes any conversation about restricting foods or food groups, especially for the sake of wanting to change one’s body weight, shape, or size. This includes such practices as harmful food labeling, or assigning moral value to foods. This can cause us to value ourselves or others based on which foods we do/do not eat. Examples of this include labeling foods as “good/bad”, “healthy/unhealthy”, “clean/junk”, or similar labels.

Engaging in any conversation about diet, restricting certain foods, or labeling foods with any sort of values judgement sets kids up to feel a heavy burden when it comes to food. They want to please the adults they admire – i.e. you = and therefore feel morally bad about wanting or preferring certain foods adults have labeled as “bad” or “unhealthy”. The result? Now, or in years to come, children either consume the “bad” or “unhealthy” foods and feel guilt and shame, or choose instead to diet, restrict, or engage in other unhealthy behaviors.

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Weight talk is any mention of your, a child’s, or someone else’s weight. This could be in seemingly positive ways – “you look great, have you lost weight?” or in negative ways “My stomach is so flabby – gross!”. Equally as harmful is commenting on bodies on TV, magazine covers, and social media.

Many of us would never talk about a child’s or another person’s weight, but find it easy – or even expected – to comment on your own. Children learn about themselves by watching what we do. If you are commenting on your weight, a child may start to have negative thoughts or concerns about their own weight. Even seemingly positive comments on weight can be harmful because you may be reinforcing unhealthy food restriction, unhealthy exercise, or other harmful behaviors that resulted in the person’s current weight.

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DIET TALK

When we label foods, we create the false idea that there are certain foods that we should or should not eat, and we set the kids in our lives up for failure. When kids hear these messages, they may enjoy a slice of cake at a birthday party or an ice cream cone after a tough soccer game and decide that they are “bad” for indulging. This can lead kids to feel guilt and shame. For some, it may lead to restricting the foods they eat, or overindulging when they get the chance.

But there are certain foods that are better for us, right? Shouldn’t we be helping kids to make good food choices?

It is true that there are certain foods that provide our bodies with more nutritional value than others. And it is important to help kids understand how certain foods make our bodies feel, our ability to focus, our energy levels, and our sleep.

It’s also important to emphasize balance instead of restriction. While whole, fresh foods are vital to nutrition, food is also fundamental to family/community gatherings and celebrations. In addition, like it or not, we live in a busy world whereby our best efforts at nutrition sometimes look a little more like processed foods than we’d choose in an ideal world. All we can do is our best and remember that it’s okay! Some days or sets of days will be “strong nutrition days”, and others will be not so strong. The best we can do is honor our body, mind, and spirit.

Along the way, you can engage kids in learning more about how their bodies work, how certain foods make them feel, and talk to them about what specific foods provide to support their growing bodies and minds.

WEIGHT TALK

Research shows that weight talk can have a negative impact on kids. Talking to a child with judgement about their weight, your weight, or the weight of others is known to contribute to the development of negative thoughts about one’s body. Body comments, body judgement, and teasing about body shape or size can lead children to develop a negative self-image. This can lead kids to develop harmful habits in an effort to control their weight at a time when their bodies are growing and their brains are developing. Even seemingly positive comments about weight can be harmful, because it may reinforce unhealthy behaviors such as food restriction, excessive or unhealthy exercise, or other harmful behaviors that resulted in the current weight. There is no way of knowing what is really going on with the person you are complimenting.

But what about health? Isn’t it healthy to be mindful of your weight and to help kids do so as well?

Research shows that focusing on weight does not necessarily contribute to a healthier lifestyle. It’s also important to remember that size does not equate to health. Health is a result of many factors that contribute to a person’s wellbeing, including relationships that foster connection, physical activity that invigorates us, hobbies that show us/remind us who we are, learning new things, taking on new challenges, and so much more. When we shift our focus away from weight, we can instead consider all of the things that help ourselves and our the kids in our lives increase our overall wellbeing.

TAKE THE PLEDGE

Take the pledge to stop diet and weight talk to protect the physical and mental health of the kids in your life.

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WHAT TO SAY INSTEAD

We all want the kids in our lives to live long and healthy lives.

Not talking to the kids in your life about diet and weight doesn’t mean that you can’t help them form habits that will protect their mental and physical health for years to come.

Click here to learn more about what to say instead, and how you can support the kids in your life.

PARTNER WITH US

The cliché fits. It takes a village. Join ours today, and help us spread the word.

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I’M CONCERNED ABOUT A CHILD IN MY LIFE

Are you concerned about the mental or physical health of a child in your life? If you suspect a child you love may be engaging in unhealthy food restriction or weight control behaviors, trust your gut and seek help. Early detection can reduce the risks.

Click here to learn more about how to support a child you’re concerned about.

YOU HAVE A POWERFUL VOICE.

TAKE THE PLEDGE TODAY.

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