"Fat shaming", or harassing fat people, does not inspire them to lose weight. A study conducted in the United Kingdom has found that the opposite is actually true- fat shaming can lead to weight gain.
The study asked 3,000 adults about their experiences in weight discrimination, such as harassment, treated with less respect,received poor service, or been treated as if they were not smart.
Five percent of the sample reported experiences of fat shaming. The study discovered that throughout a four-year span, individuals who reported experiences of weight discrimination gained an average of 2 pounds. Those who reported no such discrimination lost an average of 1.5 pounds.
According Jane Wardle, one of the researchers, their study reveals that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and is not a solution. Wardle is the director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Centre at University College London. She added that even doctors join the weight discrimination bandwagon; many obese patients have expressed disrespectful treatment from their own doctors, simply because of their weight. "Everyone should stop blaming and shaming people for their weight and offer support, and where appropriate, treatment," Wardle said in a statement.
Wardle's co-researcher Sarah Jackson said that weight discrimination is linked to weight-gain encouraging behaviors such as comfort eating. Jackson added that shaming fat people can create feelings of inadequacy and can lessen their confidence about trying out exercise and physical activity. This will make them want to avoid exercise even more.
One limitation of the study is that the researchers simply investigated on associations and not cause and effect. This indicates that it cannot be completely proven that weight discrimination is directly the cause of weight gain, although it is indeed associated with it. Still, this research's findings resonate with past studies. A similar study conducted in 2013 found that people who are not obese yet experienced weight discrimination were 2.5 times more susceptible to weight gain or obesity a few years later.