People 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.
- Criticism from family about your weight may lead to increase in weight. (2014, January 2). Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/287335.php
- Most young women ‘unhappy with bodies’ (2001, February 21). Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/1180855.stm
- 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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