How can Dad help his daughters to maintain healthy weights?

Is helping female children maintain healthy habits and a healthy self-image and a healthy weight is the mother’s job? There’s no denying that mothers are important when it comes to daughters’ health, habits, and self-esteem, but her efforts can either be reinforced or undone by the father.


Parents can do a great job role modeling healthy eating behaviors. They make a variety of healthful foods available and offer occasional treats. They allow their daughters autonomy when it comes to their food. That is important to help them have both healthy eating habits and self-control. That’s not enough, however, to help girls maintain healthy weights.


A lot of girls with healthy eating habits can have poor or distorted self images.

Low self-esteem and a distorted body image can lead to disordered eating patterns and weight issues may follow. What their fathers say and do can make it better or worse.

Dads affect their daughters’ self-esteem, body image and appearance. Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S., is an Associate Editor at She writes, “Dads, too, play a pivotal role in shaping their daughter’s body image.” Today, thanks to social media female children need their dad’s influence and guidance more than ever.

The dangers of being a target of cyber bullying are well known, but what many parents don't know is the negative affect of social media on teens who spend too much time comparing their images and "likes" to their peers.

The dangers of being a target of cyber bullying are well known, but what many parents don’t know is the negative affect of social media on teens who spend too much time comparing their images and “likes” to their peers.

An offhand comment about fat people, or a single gesture suggesting disgust at an overweight individual can send an unwanted message to a female child. Fathers need to be aware what their careless comments that link female weight with intelligence, attractiveness, or negative characteristics such as laziness can do to his daughter.

Dads don’t need to dread or fret over their role in helping their daughters maintain healthy body weights and body images. The most important thing is to build a strong and lasting bond. Research shows daughters who have good relationships with their dads tend to be more self-reliant, self-confident and successful and less likely to develop eating disorders.


1. Start early

Newborns are sturdy and despite their tiny size they aren’t too fragile to safely handle. Hold your daughters often. Talk to them. Change their diapers. Do everything their mothers do for them except, of course, breast feed them. Play with her. Have fun together.


2. Share your interests

What are your interests and your passions? Share them with your daughter. Take them with you if you go fishing. If you hunt offer to take them hunting. Don’t make assumptions that your hobbies won’t interest them because they’re girls. When you’re doing chores around the house explain what you’re doing. Let them help. Involve them as much as often.


3. Take interest in what interests her

What interests your girls? Take an active role in their lives by getting involved with their activities. Volunteer to coach their sports teams even if you’re not especially proficient in the sport, read and watch videos to improve your coaching skills. If there is a sport you do well, coach her whole team, or help just your daughter improve her skills. Go to their games, meets and recitals. Be present, put away the smart phone.


4. Show her you have confidence in her

Over the top praise doesn’t boost confidence. It needs to be covert. Show your appreciation. What makes her unique? Communicate that to her through sincere compliments. Pass on the compliments about her you receive from others. Make her accountable, help her learn by her mistakes. Celebrate incremental improvements. Give her challenges to help her grow, but take care the challenge is something she can safely achieve. Don’t criticize her efforts. Let her know you believe in her.

5. Teach her that food and body weight aren’t moral issues 

People are not good or bad because of their food choices or how much they weigh. Avoid comments that would communicate otherwise. Don’t criticize yourself or anybody else for food choices. Never add body weight to the worthiness of a person into an equation. Show her how to see the beauty and good in people regardless of physical appearances.

6. Help her to see all the beauty in nature

Help her see all the beauty around her in changing seasons, flowers, trees, animals, insects, oceans, lakes, forests, mountains etc.

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If dads consistently do those things, they took the most important measures to help her stay physically and mentally healthy and to insulate her from negative influences of the media and especially social media.


My older sister and my dad.  Summer 1950.

My older sister and my dad. Summer 1950.

Dads have enormous power to help their daughters maintain healthy weights. It’s not by being their daughters food and exercise cops or shaming them if they start to gain weight or making negative comments about overweight people. It’s by being a consistent and positive influence in their lives.


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.