It can have serious long-term consequences. 

By Samantha Zabell
Updated June 07, 2016
PhotoAlto/Laurence Mouton/Getty Images

While you certainly want your daughter to love her body and treat it well, there is a right and wrong way to discuss body image. Researchers from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab have identified the wrong way: focusing on weight. It can have long-term consequences and is more likely to cause poor body image as an adult.

In a survey, researchers asked more than 500 women between the ages of 20 and 35 to reflect on their body image and how often their parents made comments about their weight. Women with healthy BMIs were 27 percent less likely to recall instances where parents mentioned weight. Comparatively, those classified as overweight were 28 percent more likely to recall parents making remarks about eating too much.

But, according to the research, comments about girls’ weight led to more than just a higher BMI. Both overweight and slim women were more likely to have a negative body image when their parents talked about their weight frequently during childhood.

If you want to help your daughter maintain a healthy body image, focus on healthy food rather than the numbers on a scale. “Nudge healthy choices and behaviors by giving them freedom to choose for themselves and by making the healthier choices more appealing and convenient,” lead author Brian Wansink said in a statement. “After all, it’s the choices that children make for themselves that will lead to lifelong habits.”