You may want to think twice the next time you feel the urge to bring up a loved one’s weight issue. Often a sensitive topic out the gate, bringing up someone’s number on the scale can not only be uncomfortable--it can also lead them to pack on more pounds.
A study performed by a research team at the University of Waterloo finds that women whose loved ones criticize their weight are likely to get heavier.
"When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones — families, friends and romantic partners — for support and advice," says study author Christine Logel, who teaches social development studies. "How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think."
Though negative side comments about one’s weight may be counterproductive, in comparison the study points out that women whose family members are encouraging as it relates to their weight are better able to maintain their weight and even lose pounds.
For the study’s findings, participants were asked to report their actual weight, their ideal weight and height to researchers and rank their satisfaction with their weight on a scale of one to seven, one representing the most dissatisfaction. There was a total of 187 participants.
"On average, the women in the study were at the high end of Health Canada's BMI recommendations, so the healthiest thing is for them to maintain the weight they have and not be so hard on themselves," Professor Logel said, according to the NY Daily News. "But many of the women were still very concerned about how much they weigh, and most talked to their loved ones about it."
After five months, the women filled out a questionnaire asking if they had discussed their body image with their family and how their loved ones had responded. Three months later researchers assessed participants' weight and attitudes toward their body image.
As a group, the female participants gained weight over the course of the nine-month study. Those whose loved ones had criticized their weight gained close to 4.5 pounds on average.
But for women whose family deemed their weight acceptable, at least one pound was lost.
The overarching message of the study is that simple: condemning your loved one’s weight, even out of love, can do more harm than good.
“Lots of research finds that social support improves our health," Professor Logel says. "An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are."
So before you criticize ladies, remember kindness, love and support goes a long way.
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