The right way to talk about weight with girls

Posted by CarePoint Health on Jan 15, 2016 1:00:00 PM

how to talk to girls about their weight in a healthy way as they grow upThere’s no question that weight is a sensitive issue for nearly everyone. Whether someone is too thin or too heavy, other people’s words about body weight can have a lasting impact on an individual.

Young girls, especially, are susceptible to being hurt or embarrassed by the wrong type of comment about their weight. Because of societal pressures to look a certain way, many girls as young as age 9 feel pressure to be “beautiful” or “thin.”

To help avoid unnecessary harm or pressure on the young girls in your life, it’s good to know what to say — or not say — when discussing weight and health with this vulnerable age group.

When a girl is overweight

Childhood obesity is a very real and prevalent public health issue today. Being overweight at any age puts a person at higher risk for significant health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. Although you may be tempted to talk with your daughter about these problems as “motivation” to lose weight, this may not be the best approach. There’s a good chance she has already been teased about her weight by peers, which can cause serious emotional harm and eating disorders. Your goal is to combat this damage by setting a positive example and helping her discover fun and enjoyable ways to work toward a healthier weight. This means you will likely need to get involved and do it with her.

Instead of saying, “Let’s exercise more so we can lose weight,” try focusing on making it a fun bonding time — that just happens to be active. You could suggest going for a walk in the park together, dancing to some favorite music, or playing a sport such as soccer or tennis. Make it a priority in the schedule, and give her attention and positive reinforcement. Resist the urge to talk about her weight, even if she loses a few pounds. Instead, you might say, “I’m glad we’re doing this together — it’s fun and it’s good for us.”

When a girl is underweight

Although this seems like no big deal to people who struggle to be thin, many very thin girls wish for more curves and hate being called “skinny.” They may also get teased by peers and feel like they don’t measure up because they still look like “a little kid.” She may just naturally be thin, but be sure she has regular contact with a trusted physician to ensure she doesn’t have an eating disorder or other issue that may affect her weight, such as a thyroid problem.

If you’re sure she is healthy, avoid making comments about her weight. Never use the words “skinny,” “scrawny,” or similar terms. They may make her feel unattractive or like she’s different. Often times girls will start to fill out and naturally gain more curves as they get older; so for now, focus on healthy foods, including healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish. Make sure she is getting a balanced diet and regular physical activity. If she is following a healthy lifestyle and seeing her doctor as recommended, try not to worry about how she looks — and hopefully, she won’t either.

Healthy habits are important at any age — so make healthy eating and activity a family affair. Hopefully, you’ll set the stage now for a lifetime of good health and self-confidence for the young ladies in your life.

CarePoint Health Gynecology

With the help of a skilled gynecologist at CarePoint Health, you can make educated decisions about your health to be at your best at any stage of life. For more information about the comprehensive women’s services we provide, please contact us.

Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.

Topics: OBGYN, Women's health, Children's Health, Primary care, Neighborhood health center