(Photo: Olivia Corya/For The Star)
Hannah McKenna wears her hair in two braided pigtails. She watches "Backyardigans" on Nick Jr. She is far away from those tough teenage years.
Yet, Hannah came home this summer with a scary question for her mom: "Can I go on a diet?"
Scary for Susie McKenna because Hannah is only 8, and the Zionsville mom wasn't sure why diet was even in her daughter's vocabulary.
"I try to never say anything about weight," said McKenna, who works for Lacy Leadership Association and also has 3-year-old daughter Amelia. "I don't do the diets where you replace a meal with a shake. I don't want her to ever see me eating differently than the rest of the family."
McKenna is right on point when it comes to helping her young daughters develop a positive body image - avoiding talk about weight, diets and outer appearances, experts say.
Because it's not the media or skinny, out-of-proportion Barbie dolls or even peer pressure that is the No. 1 cause of body issues for young girls.
It's their mothers.
"Moms are probably the most important influence on a daughter's body image," said Dr. Leslie Sim, clinical director of Mayo Clinic's eating disorders program and a child psychologist. "Even if a mom says to the daughter, 'You look so beautiful, but I'm so fat,' it can be detrimental."
Research has shown time and time again that the same-sex parent is the most important role model for a child. So when it comes to weight and body issues, Sim has strong opinions on what mothers should be doing.
"Zero talk about dieting, zero talk about weight," she said. "Zero comments not only about your daughter's weight, obviously, but zero talk about your weight and even other people's weight."
See photos of moms and daughters here.
Hannah said her request to go on a diet had less to do with weight and more to do with wanting to be healthier after a nutrition lesson at soccer camp this summer.
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