Study: “Fat-Shaming” Contributes to Obesity

They’re not changing fast enough for many who advocate for society to adopt a healthier public discourse on body image.  Just this past week, according to the BBC, an Israeli advertising firm had to yank a public health ad campaign that featured distorted images of children with outsized faces and small smiles, with the tagline, “When your child gains weight, his smile becomes smaller.”  The campaign is reminiscent of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta “Strong 4 Life” campaign, which featured overweight children in black-and-white photos looking sad and telling why their lives were terrible.  Many have worried that such campaigns only succeed in making people feel worse about their bodies, which can inhibit their ability to take charge of their health.

A recent study provided scientific data to back up that hunch.  A team of researchers measured the body mass index of 6,157 people, aged 50 or older in 2006 and again in 2010.  They also asked each participant, whether overweight or not, whether they had experienced discrimination based on weight.  What they found was that participants who said they had experienced weight discrimination in 2006 were 2.5 times more likely to be obese in 2010 than those who didn’t report weight discrimination.  In addition, those who were obese and reported weight discrimination in 2006 were 3 times more likely to stay obese in 2010 than those who didn’t report weight discrimination.

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