How should a concerned mother discuss issues of diet and weight with her daughter? Very carefully, says a new study.
Mother and preteen daughter looking in mirror
Credit: Shestock/Getty Images

Want to help your daughter lose weight? Then you should probably keep your mouth shut—especially if your daughter is in sixth through eighth grade.

Broaching the subject of weight loss with anyone can be tricky. But a new study of a representative group of sixth- through eighth-grade girls and their mothers reveals just how difficult it can be discuss weight loss and dieting with body-conscious young girls without having some kind of negative impact—particularly if you're a mom who avoids talking about your own weight concerns.

"Generally, we found that for the daughters who were being encouraged to lose weight by their mothers, outcomes were worse if their mothers were not also discussing their own weight concerns," said Erin Hill, an author of the study and a developmental psychology doctoral student at the University of Notre Dame

And here's something else: According to Hill, daughters who are encouraged to lose weight but whose moms are not also talking about their own weight issues are at greater risk for developing eating disorders, based on the types of dieting behavior and drive for thinness the study participants reported in eighth grade.

Scary stuff!

Hill acknowledged that the study findings as a whole suggested more about what mothers should not be talking about than what they should. "After all," she said, "the best outcomes were found for daughters whose mothers were not engaging in either type of conversation. They do shed light on the complexity of the issue of talking to children about their weight in ways that don't lead to poor health outcomes in the long run."

What do you think: Should mothers discuss the issue of dieting with their daughters?

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger and a mom. Check out her website for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.