Trying to encourage weight loss? Why ‘fat-shaming’ won’t do it

CALGARY- New research published in the journal Obesity has found discrimination against overweight and obese people, a practice sometimes called “fat-shaming”, does not encourage weight loss and can actually lead to weight gain.

In a study of nearly three thousand overweight and obese adults over the age of 50, British researchers found those who experienced weight discrimination gained more weight compared to those who did not.

Examples of discrimination included being treated disrespectfully, receiving poor service in shops or when accessing medical care and being harassed. On average, those who said they experienced discrimination gained just over two pounds during a four year period, while those who did not lost just over 1.5 pounds.

“Previous studies have found that people who experience discrimination report comfort eating,” explains lead author Dr. Sarah Jackson. “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.”

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“Our study clearly shows that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problems,” adds senior author, Jane Wardle, a director at Cancer Research UK.  “Everyone, including doctors, should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment.”