Fat Shaming Victims Are More Likely to Become Obese Later In Life, Study Says

We've all heard the justification for fat shaming that letting people know they are overweight is good because it will inspire them to be healthier. Well, science is here to tell you that actually, fat shaming backfires big time on that front. A study out of UCLA has now revealed that when girls are called fat in adolescence, they are more likely to become obese later in life.

The study included 2,300 girls from across the country whose weight was checked at age 10 and then checked again at age 19. Researchers found that 58 percent of the girls reported being told that they were fat, either by a classmate, friend, sibling, parent, or even teacher — information that's depressing enough on its own. Even more depressing is the fact that those girls were much more likely to actually be medically obese by their late teens.

Making these results even more disturbing is the fact that the researchers controlled for several factors, including the girls actual childhood weight. In other words, this isn't a case of "Girl was only called fat because she is fat, so of course she's more likely to be fat later." Even when factoring that into the statistical analysis, researchers found that girls who were called fat were still more likely to be overweight later in life. In fact, that trend held true no matter how many variables the researchers controlled for. Income, race, age of puberty, none of it makes a difference.

It makes sense when you think about it. For one thing, being called fat sucks (especially if it's part of being more broadly bullied), and one way to deal with sucky things is to eat. For another, humans beings are more or less programmed to rely on information society presents to us, whether that be that we're smart or selfish or friendly or fat. Part of our own understanding of ourselves is based on what the world tells us we are. So if we're told that we're fat, especially if we're told often, maybe we're more likely to just accept that identity and act accordingly whether it's true or not.

So what does this mean? Well first of all, it means we can stop pretending that fat-shaming is about anything other than trying to make fat people feel lesser. Because if calling people fat actually makes them more likely to be fat, then doing so is not a way of "helping them." It's not motivated by concern. It's motivated by the fact that our society has decided that a person's weight is inversely proportional to their worth. And that is not OK.