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What you shouldn’t say to kids: Stop telling kids how much they’ve grown

This is the ONE phrase you should never say to kids – and the dangerous consequences if you do

  • Gwen Kostal, from Ontario, Canada, heads health service Dieticians4Teachers
  • She said teachers should avoid remarks about students’ bodies even if positive
  • Gwen said to avoid saying ‘Look how big you are’ or ‘You grew so much’
  • She claims they can have a lasting harmful effect on children’s body image 

A dietitian has warned teachers and parents against commenting on students’ bodies and urged them to avoid saying things like ‘Look how big you are’ or ‘You grew so much’.

Gwen Kostal, from Ontario, Canada, heads health education group Dieticians4Teachers and said some innocent small talk can have a lasting harmful effect on children’s body image. 

In an Instagram post, the dietitian and anti-dieting campaigner said instead of remarking on a child’s appearance to try to say things like ‘Nice to see you’ and ‘I’m so glad you’re in my class’. 

Gwen Kostal, from Ontario, Canada, heads health education group Dieticians4Teachers and said some innocent small talk can have a lasting harmful effect on children’s body image

‘Don’t forget that some of our ‘small talk’ around kids is well-meaning but can cause harm,’ Gwen wrote in the post. 

‘Try and avoid body comments. Even ‘positive’ ones. Definitely avoid comparing to siblings’ bodies.’ 

Parents in comments were fans of Gwen’s message with one mum saying she hates hearing people call her daughter ‘big’.

‘I CRINGE everyone says to my daughter: she’s ‘big’ for her age. Or ‘big’ girl now,’ she said. 

Gwen said to stop saying things like 'Look how big you are' or 'You grew so much' and to avoid comparing kids' appearances to their siblings

Gwen said to stop saying things like ‘Look how big you are’ or ‘You grew so much’ and to avoid comparing kids’ appearances to their siblings

How parents and teachers can help primary school students have a positive relationship with food  

Respect natural hunger and fullness cues 

  • Allow students to control their own intake – avoid telling them how much to eat or suggesting ‘one more bite.’ 
  • Allow students to eat food in any order they choose – no need to finish one food before another. 
  • Trust and respect students when they say or signal they are full or still hungry. 

Teach nutrition in a positive way 

  • Focus on the benefits of fuelling the mind and body with a variety of food. 
  • Keep all messages positive. Avoid negative/fear-based statements like ‘that food is not healthy.’ 
  • Focus on behaviours, such as regular meals, sleep and physical activity to feel good, not for weight control or appearance. 
  • Avoid weighing students, using weight tables or charts, or calorie counting activities. 
  • Avoid using any food as a reward. 

Promote positive body image 

  • Be mindful of what you say and avoid sharing personal views about food, dieting and body weight. 
  • Teach about natural body diversity. Each person’s body is different, and we should respect, accept and celebrate these differences! 
  • Teach students how to look at media messages and stereotypes critically. There is no ‘ideal’ body and all bodies are worthy 

Source: Ontario Dietitians in Public Health

‘Love this!! This can also be helpful for parents to not make body comments either!’ another wrote. 

In a previous post shared before the last school year started, Gwen reminded parents and teachers that ‘bodies are not small talk’ as it makes kid’s feel ‘awkward’. 

‘Parents: Talk to your kids. Remind them they can ask people to not talk about their bodies or they can just ignore these comments,’ she wrote. 

‘Teachers, school parents… I get it! Easy small talk. Sure. It’s true but it’s also the LEAST interesting thing about a kid.’

Gwen is an avid campaigner for teaching children about food and health ‘safely’ at school and is adamantly against strict rules enforced by schools about what parents are and aren’t allowed to put in their kid’s lunchboxes. 



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