It only takes one poorly phrased comment on someone’s weight (‘don’t eat so much, you’re putting on weight’, etc) to affect their self image and feelings around food for years to come.
A number of studies carried out have captured the impact of unhelpful language when referring to weight, in particular that of parent’s to their daughters. In one retrospective study, a parent’s comment about their daughter’s childhood weight was found to relate to her weight and body dissatisfaction as an adult.
Some Key Points from the research:
- A woman’s dissatisfaction with her adult weight was only related to the extent she remembered her parents making any comments about her weight, but not about how much she ate – even though both were positively related to her BMI
- Even among ‘normal-weight’ young women with similar weights, those who recalled their parents commenting about their weight were more dissatisfied with their body weight
But there is a lesson for all of us to take from this research. In a world where we are told freedom of speech is essential and that honesty is the best policy (both of which I agree with), we still need to remember that people have feelings and that contrary to nursery rhymes (“sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”), words do hurt.
This is a simple rule to remember: Think Before You Speak!
Health & Respect,