Jul 31, 2013 09:28 AM EDT
People frequently criticized for being fat, are more likely to either become or stay obese and overweight people are less likely to lose weight if they feel that they are being treated differently because of their size, according to a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University.
The findings of the study were published this week in the journal PLoS ONE.
"Weight discrimination, in addition to being hurtful and demeaning, has real consequences for the individual's physical health," said Angelina Sutin, the study author and a psychologist and assistant professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine in Tallahassee, Fla.
FSU researchers said that 'fattism' can arrive from both hurtful comments and job rejections among others.
The study found that because of the stress of being discriminated, people who are sensitive about their weight tend to indulge in comfort food with calorie-laden fatty eatables. It may also drive them to avoid exercise.
As a result, for the overweight people, it becomes more difficult to lose weight.
The researchers arrived at the conclusion after weighing and measuring more than 6,000 men and women. They were asked whether they were ridiculed or treated differently. The participants said that they were stigmatized for their weight, race and color.
They were once again measured and weighed after four years. When the researchers analysed the data, they did not find any link between sexism, racism and weight gain.
The data also revealed that participants who were criticized because of their weight 'were two and a half times more likely to have become obese' than those who were not weight discriminated.
Overweight people, who were poked fun at for their size, were three times likely to remain obese.
'There is a difference between fighting obesity and discriminating against individuals who are obese. It is counterproductive if the campaign is aimed at shaming and blaming the individual. It is possible to promote a healthy lifestyle without being stigmatising,' Sutin said.
Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said that if people are often told that they are fat, they start to believe it.
'If your nearest and dearest tell you that you are fat in the right way, that could be a good thing. It is no good pussyfooting around it,' Fry said.
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