In a fascinating study, researchers from University College London have found that shaming people about their weight makes it six times more likely that people will be obese.
When people get criticized for their weight they are more likely to comfort eat. And fear of ridicule also makes them avoid exercise. Lead author Sarah Jackson advises the medical community to avoid using the word “fat” and to be careful about shaming patients.
Their study included almost 3000 English men and women aged 50 plus who were weighed once, and then again four years later.
Published in the journal Obesity, the study showed that the victims of “fat shaming” put on just over 2 pounds over the course of the study. They were six times as likely to become obese. Those who weren’t criticized for their weight became slimmer over the four years, although only be a small amount. Dr. Jackson said, “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain. Previous studies have shown that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating.”
Dr. Jackson explained that weight bias exists for the general public, and also for health professionals. As she said, “Doctors tend to spend less time with obese patients. They feel that treating obesity is a futile task and many avoid doing it.We need to find a way of addressing this during training, highlighting that blaming and shaming isn’t going to help resolve the problem.”