Criticizing Women about Weight Can Lead to Weight Gain

January 5, 2015
Ryan Marotta, Assistant Editor

No matter how well-intentioned they may seem, a loved one's critiques about weight often cause women to gain pounds instead of shedding them.

No matter how well-intentioned they may seem, a loved one’s critiques about weight often cause women to gain pounds instead of shedding them, a new study indicates.

The study, published in the December 2014 issue of Personal Relationships, examined the height and weight of university-age women who were asked how they felt about their weight. After about 5 month, the women were asked how their loved ones responded if they spoke to them about their weight-related concerns, and another 3 months after that, the researchers tracked the changes in both the women’s weight and their concerns about it.

The results of the study found that women whose family members had given them messages of acceptance without criticizing their weight lost an average of 1 lb, while women who received fewer positive messages and more critiques gained an average of about 4.5 lb.

According to the researchers, pressure from loved ones to lose weight not only caused weight-concerned women to gain weight, but it also caused women who were not initially concerned about their weight to gain it as well.

“We all know someone who points out our weight gain or offers to help us lose weight,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Christine Logel of Renison University College at the University of Waterloo, in a press release. “These results suggest that these comments are misguided.”

The study suggests that women who receive positive messages from their loved ones about their weight feel better about their bodies and, therefore, are more likely to remain active and make healthy choices.

“Lots of research finds that social support improves our health,” said Logel. “An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are.”