Weight discrimination or ‘fat shaming’ is one of the most shocking barriers to weight loss, research finds.
Unfortunately, being treated disrespectfully by others leads to weight gain.
People who had been fat shamed weighed an average of 3.5 pounds (1.6 kg) more over the four years of the study.
However, those who did not experience discrimination lost weight.
Fat shaming includes:
- Being threatened or harassed,
- receiving poor service from people in stores and restaurants,
- and being treated disrespectfully.
There is a popular perception that ‘fat shaming’ can encourage people to lose weight.
This study emphatically shows this is not true.
Dr Sarah Jackson, the study’s lead author, said:
“There is no justification for discriminating against people because of their weight.
Our results show that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, and suggest that it may even exacerbate weight gain.
Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating.
Stress responses to discrimination can increase appetite, particularly for unhealthy, energy-dense food.
Weight discrimination has also been shown to make people feel less confident about taking part in physical activity, so they tend to avoid it.”
The conclusions come from a study of 2,944 people in the UK who were tracked for four years.
The results showed that 36% of those who were obese had experienced weight discrimination.
Those that experienced weight discrimination put on an average of 2 pounds (1kg).
Those who did not experience discrimination lost an average of 1.5 pounds (0.7kg).
Professor Jane Wardle, study co-author, said:
“Our study clearly shows that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution.
Weight bias has been documented not only among the general public but also among health professionals; and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight.
Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Obesity (Jackson et al., 2014).