'Fat Shaming' Study: Weight Discrimination Leads To Weight Gain, Not Loss

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 27, 2013 1:12 PM EDT

fat
"Fat shaming" people about their weight only makes people them gain more pounds, a new study finds. (Photo: Flickr: Tobyotter)

"Fat shaming," the behavior of making people feel bad about their weight, doesn't motivate them to lose weight and may actually lead to weight gain, a new study finds.

In the study, published in PLoS ONE, researchers asked 6,000 people of different weights if they had been the subject of fat shaming. Four years later they did a follow-up with the 6,000 people. After four years, the overweight subjects in the group who had been subjected to fat shaming were 2.5 times more likely to be obese, and those who were already obese were 3.5 times more likely to be remain obese. 

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"Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual's physical health," said study author Angelina Sutin, a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Fla.

In the study's abstract, the researchers note that overweight or obese individuals often cope with fat shaming by further "problematic eating" as well as avoiding physical activity. 

"Stigma and discrimination are really stressors, and, unfortunately, for many people, they're chronic stressors," said Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, who had studied fat shaming for over a decade. "And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety--that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors, so there is a logical connection here in terms of some of the maladaptive coping strategies to try to deal with the stress of being stigmatized."

In the United States, 70 percent of adults are overweight, with one-third of Americans considered obese. 

In America, about 70 percent of adults are overweight and more than one third are obese. Last month, the American Medical Association declared obesity a disease.

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