You already know that fat shaming is bad, but it might be even more counterproductive than originally thought, says a new University of Pennsylvania study.
Researchers evaluated 159 people with obesity to see how much they’ve internalized weight bias, or how negatively they feel about being considered obese. Turns out, the worse people felt about being considered fat, the more at risk they were for health problems associated with obesity. Yup. Feeling bad about being considered overweight actually made them more likely to have health issues.
“There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate individuals with obesity to lose weight and improve their health,” says Rebecca Pearl, PhD, lead researcher on the study an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a press release. “We are finding it has quite the opposite effect.” It’s true, past studies have found that fat shaming does *not* help people lose weight.
“When people feel shamed because of their weight, they are more likely to avoid exercise and consume more calories to cope with this stress,” Pearl explains. “In this study, we identified a significant relationship between the internalization of weight bias and having a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, which is a marker of poor health.”
Metabolic syndrome is a term that describes the presence of risk factors for heart disease and other health concerns, like high blood pressure and high blood sugar, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The more factors you have, the more serious the condition is. Needless to say, this is a problem that needs to be corrected, because the worse people feel about their weight, the higher their likelihood having complications from it.
More research is needed to fully understand how the psychological effects of weight bias manifest in people’s physical health, but for now, one thing is certain: fat shaming needs to stop. (If you’re not sure what constitutes fat shaming or you’re worried about doing it unintentionally, here are 9 ways fat shaming happens at the gym.)