Discrimination Against the Obese Increases Obesity

According to new research, discriminating against overweight people does not motivate them to lose weight – in fact, it is doing the opposite and contributing to increased obesity.

Psychologists from Florida State College of Medicine used survey data from men and women age 50 and older to determine how they experienced discrimination in their daily lives. The respondents were then asked why they believed the discrimination happened. Researchers also recorded the height and weight of the participants. Four years later, respondents were asked the same questions and were again checked for height and weight.

Participants who said they had experienced discrimination because they were overweight were more than twice as likely to be obese upon follow up than people who did not mention discrimination based on weight. Individuals who were obese at the first survey were three times more likely to remain obese if they had been discriminated against because of their weight. Other types of discrimination (i.e., based on sex, age, race, etc.) showed no effect on weight.

While the study does not attempt to discern why overweight individuals continued to gain more weight, researchers say that the roots of obesity are complex and while promoting healthy behaviors is a good thing, shaming someone is not a solution.

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