Loved Ones’ Comments about Weight May Promote Weight Gain

A woman's feet on a bathroom scalePeople medically classified as overweight or obese often face an uphill battle when it comes to loving themselves and their bodies. Anti-sizeism activists complain that doctors may blame every symptom a patient has on his or her weight, while loved ones may constantly nag about weight loss, claiming they’re doing so out of concern. According to a new study published in the journal Personal Relationships, though, comments about a loved one’s weight are unlikely to offer any benefit. Instead, these criticisms can cause overweight people to gain more weight.

Body Criticism and Weight Gain

If you feel bad about your body, you might turn to a loved one to help you feel better. Researchers from Renisom University College at the University of Waterloo wanted to explore how these interactions might affect weight. They surveyed college-age women about their height and weight, as well as how they felt about their bodies. Five months later, researchers asked the women if they had talked to loved ones about their body image and how those loved ones had responded. Three months later—eight months after the first survey—researchers asked women about their weight again.

Women who reported greater body acceptance from their loved ones were more likely to maintain their weight or to lose weight. By contrast, women who did not receive these positive messages were more likely to gain weight. Among women who did not report weight or body images concerns at the outset, negative messages about weight could cause them to both gain weight and develop body image issues.

Why Negative Messages Lead to Weight Gain

According to one recent survey, about 80% of women report being unhappy with their bodies. Most people are bombarded with messages encouraging them to be thin or to conform to an unrealistic beauty standard. Women who want or need to lose weight are already aware of what their bodies look like, so weight criticism doesn’t offer any benefit. By pointing out the need to lose weight, though, loved ones may create needless stress and self-loathing—two emotions that can cause someone to gain more weight.

The women in the study were at the high end of Health Canada’s BMI recommendations. Christine Logel, the study’s lead author, emphasizes in the study that the healthiest outcome for these women was to maintain their weight and be less critical of their bodies. When loved ones criticize a person’s body, body-acceptance becomes more challenging.

References:

  1. Criticism from family about your weight may lead to increase in weight. (2014, January 2). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/287335.php
  2. Most young women ‘unhappy with bodies’ (2001, February 21). Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1180855.stm
  3. When your doctor makes you feel fat. (2011, November 01). Retrieved from http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/weight-and-obesity-discrimination-doctors

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  • Agnes

    Agnes

    January 7th, 2015 at 2:43 PM

    So true so true!

    My parents always said such hurtful things to me about my weight when I was young, and I think that in their minds they thought that they could fat shame me and that I would get tired of it and would lose the weight just to shut them up.

    Oops didn’t work that way. I think that instead I became very belligerent and decided that I would stay heavy to spite them, even if that wasn’t what made me happy. It was my way of exerting control when really the eating was actually out of control.

  • Susan M

    Susan M

    January 8th, 2015 at 2:45 AM

    I agree, The only way to lose weight permanently is to change your lifestyle. Your loved ones can play an important role to support you. We should forget about pills, fad diets and unsustainable eating plans.The answer is to learn to eat like a slim person.

  • frankie

    frankie

    January 8th, 2015 at 3:43 PM

    Not eat like a slim person but eat like a healthy person
    when you make those kinds of changes for real then the other changes that you are seeking will not be far behind

  • Kyle

    Kyle

    January 9th, 2015 at 3:47 AM

    I say things to my daughters about their weight not to be discouraging but to try to get them to see that they need to get their weight under control in order for them to be healthy. I don’t want them to feel bad about themselves, but this is a society in which you have to look a certain way to be accepted and taken seriously. If this is something that is preventable then why not do what you can to establish healthy eating patterns and habits from a young age? Then hopefully weight will never be anything that you have to worry too much about. I would never want them to believe that I do not think that they are beautiful because they are but I also feel that you have to stress the importance of health and nutrition to them too, and sometimes that might include uncomfortable discussions about weight as well.

  • chrissy

    chrissy

    January 9th, 2015 at 10:50 AM

    Kyle- would you want someone saying things to you all of the time about your weight? Probably not, so I am sure that your daughters feel the same way

  • Clay U.

    Clay U.

    January 10th, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    The opposite could also be true
    This could also lead someone down the path to having a very serious eating disorder
    that could in the end kill them
    Is that worth it?

  • Blaine

    Blaine

    January 12th, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    I sure would hate to think that those who are supposed to love me unconditionally are the ones giving me the most grief for being overweight, and that is very often the case!

  • savoy

    savoy

    January 17th, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    This is especially true when the person who is being criticized is already someone who uses food as comfort.

    Chances are they are going to be going to a lot more food if people around them are making remarks like this.

  • James

    James

    March 20th, 2015 at 12:23 AM

    Yes, I agree with your point that skipping meals will never workout in weight loss process. But some people think that it workout. Balanced diet will be the good for healthy living.

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