“Don’t eat so much:” how parent comments relate to female weight satisfaction

  • Brian WansinkEmail author
  • Lara A. Latimer
  • Lizzy Pope
Original Article



How will the words of a parent influence the adult weight of their daughter? This retrospective study evaluates how the recalled comments of parents made about the weight or eating habits of a daughter related to her adult BMI and satisfaction with her weight.


A nationwide cross-sectional survey was conducted with 501 young women ranging in age from 20 to 35 (age 26.8, SD 3.1; BMI 25.96, SD 6.2), who were asked to indicate their weight satisfaction, eating habits, and BMI along with their recall of the extent to which they recalled their parents making weight-related or eating-related comments about them as a young girl. Linear regression analyses were run to examine the relationship between parental comments and women’s weight satisfaction and BMI.


A woman’s dissatisfaction with her adult weight was only related to the extent she remembered her parents making any comments about her weight (p < 0.01), but not about how much she ate (p < 0.05)—even though both were positively related to her BMI (p < 0.001 and p < 0.01). 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 (p < 0.01).


In this retrospective study, a parent’s comments about her childhood weight were related to her weight and body dissatisfaction as an adult. In contrast, comments about her eating habits were not significantly related to weight dissatisfaction.


Eating Parenting BMI-body mass index Body weight Weight perception Weight satisfaction 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Research involving human participants and/or animals

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dyson School of Applied Economics and ManagementCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Kinesiology & Health EducationThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  3. 3.Department of Nutrition and Food SciencesUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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