People trying to lose weight and keep it off frequently face criticism from others, new research reveals.
While losing weight is hard enough, other people can sabotage these efforts with sarcastic and unkind comments.
These include being told: “You are going to gain it all back!”
People probably make these comments because they feel bad about their own unhealthy lifestyles.
They are afraid of being judged for their own choices and want to get their passive-aggressive sting in first.
Dr Lynsey Romo, the study’s author, explained there was a stigma against being thin:
“Many times, when someone loses weight, that person’s efforts are undermined by friends, family or coworkers.
This study found that people experience a ‘lean stigma’ after losing weight, such as receiving snide remarks about healthy eating habits or having people tell them that they’re going to gain all of the weight back.”
The study involved 40 people who had previously been overweight or obese and were trying to maintain their weight loss.
All gave in-depth interviews about their experience.
The average weight loss was 77 pounds (35 kg).
Dr Romo explained the results:
“All 40 of the study participants reported having people in their lives try to belittle or undermine their weight loss efforts.
This negative behavior is caused by what I call lean stigma.
However, the study found participants used specific communication strategies to cope with lean stigma and maintain both their weight loss and their personal relationships.”
Those who had lost weight tried to avoid this negativity.
Techniques used included telling people they had lost weight for ‘health reasons’ and to ‘have more energy’.
They also tried to keep their healthy eating subtle.
Dr Romo said:
“Study participants would go out of their way to make clear that they were not judging other people’s choices.
For example, participants would stress that they had changed their eating habits for health reasons, or in order to have more energy.
Overall, the study highlights how important relationships are to making sustainable lifestyle changes — and the importance of communication in how we navigate those relationships,”
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, 2013) 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 Health Communication (Romo, 2018).