Weight Loss Fixation Common Among Bullies and Their Victims

Sad teen girl sitting next to windowAdolescent bullies and their victims are more likely to be preoccupied with weight loss than adolescents who are not involved in bullying, according to a study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity.

The authors of the study hypothesize that bullies have a strong desire to fit in by meeting social standards of beauty that demand a particular body type. Bullying victims, by contrast, may become fixated on weight due to the low self-esteem that often results from being bullied. This can make them more vulnerable to eating disorders.

The Relationship Between Bullying and Weight Fixation

The study involved two stages. In the first stage, researchers used peer- and self-reports to screen 2,782 adolescents from five secondary schools in the United Kingdom about their involvement in bullying. In the second stage, investigators gave 767 students involved in bullying—either as bullies, victims, or both—a variety of assessments of mental health, body image, and attitudes about weight loss.

Even after controlling for sex, age, body mass index (BMI), and other variables linked to self-esteem and attitudes about weight, the results showed a link between bullying involvement and weight preoccupation. However, the link between being a bully and being obsessed with losing weight was statistically significant only in boys.

Forty-two percent of bullies were preoccupied with weight loss, and 57% of participants who were both bullies and victims were also fixated on weight. Fifty-five percent of bullying victims were obsessed with losing weight. About 35% of participants who were not involved in bullying were fixated on losing weight.

The study points to the role of self-esteem and body image in bullying. It suggests addressing bullying could potentially reduce the risk of developing eating and food issues.

Bullying, Weight, and Mental Health

Other research also points to a link between bullying, weight, and mental health. One study found weight-related teasing damaged teen girls’ self-esteem. It also increased their risk of developing eating disorders. Another study found loved ones’ comments about weight are linked to increased weight gain.


  1. Bullies and their victims obsessed with weight-loss. (2017, March 29). Retrieved from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-03-bullies-victims-obsessed-weight-loss.html
  2. Lee, K., Guy, A., Dale, J., & Wolke, D. (2017). Does psychological functioning mediate the relationship between bullying involvement and weight loss preoccupation in adolescents? A two-stage cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1). doi:10.1186/s12966-017-0491-1

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  • Sarah


    April 25th, 2017 at 2:46 PM

    I really don’t have that much sympathy for bullies. I don’t care what their motivation for doing what they are doing is. The fact is that they are then making other kids feel even more terrible about themselves and you never hear about the bullies engaging in self harming behavior, only their victims.
    I might seem callous and that’s fine, I don’t care. We all have things in life that we have to deal with and we don’t all go around torturing victims like these bullies choose to do.
    They are making the choice to engage in bad behavior and they should have to pay the consequences when they are caught.

  • Ray


    April 27th, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    I have been picked on so much because of my weight that I try not to let things like that bother me anymore. I know that I carry around the residuals of that bullying with the ways that I currently think of myself, but you know, the past is done.

  • Thomas


    April 28th, 2017 at 11:40 AM

    It is because we have shamed ourselves into thinking that if we don’t appear to look on the outside like a supermodel then we are wasting our breath

  • Townshend


    April 29th, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    When u r unhappy w yourself it is natural that u will find that n someone else and use that against them

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