Rude comments and bad behavior toward overweight people does not inspire them to lose weight, a new study says.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, looked at 2,944 adults over the age of 50 in the United Kingdom for four years. Participants who experienced weight discrimination weighed more than those that didn’t, the study authors reported. They included harassment, being treated poorly in the public and being treated disrespectfully as indicators of discrimination.
About 5 percent of the subjects reported being discriminated against daily because of their weight and gained about 2 pounds. Those that didn’t report any discrimination lost almost 2 pounds, the authors reported.
“There is no justification for discriminating against people because of their weight,” said lead author Dr. Sarah Jackson in a statement. “Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.”
She added that overweight or obese people who are on the receiving end of fat shaming can often feel stressed from the harassment, which can make it less likely for them to eat healthy foods or exercise.
Studies in the past have shown that words can have harmful effects on people who are overweight. Another study in the International Journal of Obesity showed that people did not respond positively to their doctors who used the words “morbidly obese,” “fat” and “obese.”
Beverly Neville, who does health promotion for the Salt Lake County Health Department, said that anti-obesity campaigns should not be as harsh as anti-smoking ads because there can be a discrepancy between size and health.
“There is a lot of diversity,” Neville said. “Admit there’s size diversity and focus on the health rather than the weight.”
Emilee Eager contributed to this story.