The Most Unexpected Barrier to Weight Loss

Weight loss is hard enough without this surprising barrier.

Weight loss is hard enough without this surprising barrier.

Being criticised by others is one of the biggest barriers to weight loss, research finds.

Young people who are teased about their weight put on an average of 7 pounds more, compared to those not teased.

Far from motivating change, teasing or criticism causes people to put on more weight.

Teasing and criticism may cause people to engage in unhealthy behaviours like overeating and avoiding exercise.

Criticism may increase levels of the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol, which has also been linked to weight gain.

A previous study has also found that people criticised by their families have difficulty losing weight.

Women criticised by their family about their weight ended up putting on more weight, that study showed.

In contrast, those that received unconditional acceptance from their family lost over five times as much.

Feeling better about themselves likely encouraged people to eat more healthily.

Receiving acceptance from others may also reduce stress, leading to less weight gain.

The latest study involved 110 young people who were followed over 15 years.

Many were overweight and all were asked whether and how much they were teased about this.

They were asked if they agreed with statements such as:

  • People laughed at you for trying out for sports because you were heavy.
  • People called you names like “fatso”.
  • People pointed at you because you were overweight.
  • People snickered about your heaviness when you walked into a room alone.

The results showed that young people who experienced the most teasing put on an average of 0.44 pounds each year, compared with those not teased at all.

Over the 15 years of the study, this meant an average weight gain of almost 7 pounds.

The study was published in the journal Pediatric Obesity (Schvey et al., 2019).

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

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.

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