I decided to stop talking about my weight in front of my kids. Here's what experts say about the risks of normalizing diet talk.
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When my daughter was 4, I realized that she was internalizing my own insecurities about weight after giving birth to her little brother. My “baby weight” was not coming off as quickly as it had with my three older children and I talked about it, in front of her, a lot. She saw my excitement when a new scale to track my weight loss arrived and quickly started weighing herself every day. At first, I thought it was adorable that she was intimidating me. That changed quickly when, after hopping off the scale one afternoon, my very skinny toddler told me she was fat. After that, I stopped talking about weight in front of any of my kids and started weighing myself only when my children weren’t present.
However, I can’t stop others from talking about weight in front of my children, and that’s worrisome. My daughter is now in middle school and a Girl Scout. Like most tweens and teen girls, she and her friends care about their appearance. As they continue to navigate their place in the world, not quite children and not yet adults, they listen and learn from the grown-ups around them.
I was horrified when she returned from a Girl Scout cookie booth sale and told me that “around 30” people told her and the other Scouts that they “shouldn’t buy cookies because they were trying to lose weight.” She seemed confused that most of them bought cookies anyway, although a few left without Thin Mints after leaving a donation for the troop.
Privately, I wondered why anyone, let alone “around 30” people, thought it was appropriate to make comments about weight in front of a bunch Girl Scouts. Since the association between Girl Scout cookies and weight was referenced over and over again during the couple of hours the girls spent selling cookies, I worried that my daughter and her friends might no longer enjoy their cookies as much, or would stop eating them altogether.