If your family and friends are on your back about your weight, they are not helping. You are less likely to put on more pounds when your loved ones are not critical of your weight.
"When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones-families, friends and romantic partners-for support and advice. How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think," said Christine Logel, a professor at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
Logel was the lead investigator on a study that found that women who were the object of positive messages about their weight from their friends and family were more likely to lose weight than those who did not receive positive messages.
The researchers studied college-age women since they are more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight. The women were asked about their height and weight and how they felt when they got on a scale. Five months later, they were asked if they had talked with loved ones about their weight concerns and, if so, how they responded. In another three months, they were asked about their weight and if their concerns about it had changed.
The women in the study gained some weight over time, which is not uncommon. But the women who got the message from loved ones that they look fine maintained their weight or even lost a bit. Women who received comparatively few weight acceptance messages from their loved ones gained almost 4.5 pounds on average, while women who received comparatively more weight acceptance messages lost a pound.
"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."
This finding may mean that feeling better about themselves causes women to be more active or eat more sensibly. Feeling accepted as if might have lowered their stress, a known cause of weight gain.