Ten-year-old girls who are called “too fat” are more likely to be obese at 19 than those who aren’t labeled, according to a letter published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics by researchers at UCLA.
“Making people feel bad about their weight can backfire,” says the study’s senior author and assistant professor of psychology, Janet Tomiyama. “It can be demoralizing. And we know that when people feel bad, they often reach out to food for comfort.”
Researchers conducted the study as a response to those who feel shaming people into losing weight is an effective strategy.
Researchers asked the 2,300 10-year-old girls if they had been called fat by a parent, sibling, best friend, “boyfriend,” or teacher.
Interestingly, the girls who were labeled “too fat” by family members were 1.62 times more likely to be obese at 19 while girls labeled by non-family members were 1.4 times more likely to be obese.
Tomiyama says she understands people who tell their loved ones they’re too fat often mean well, but she suggests simply staying away from the word “fat.”
“We don’t really need to talk about fat or nonfat if we are trying to talk about health,” she says. “Just say let’s go eat healthier and let’s go exercise and not even make weight part of the conversation.”
She says that weight isn’t even a great marker for health anyway.