Does Calling You Fat Make You Fat?

sharma-obesity-discriminationOne of the most troubling aspects of weight-bias and discrimination is that it has strong negative emotional and physical consequences for the individuals, who perceive these negative attitudes.

Now a study suggests that simply being labeled “fat” in childhood may be a strong predictor of obesity ten year later.

Thus, according to a longitudinal study by Jeffrey Hunger and Janet Tomiyama, published in JAMA Pediatrics, girls who reported being called “fat” at age 10 were about 60% more likely to have a BMI in the obese range at age 19.

Kids in this study were considered as “labeled”, if they responded “yes” to the question, whether they had ever been called fat by their father, mother, brothers, sister, best girl friend, boy you like best, any other girl, any other boy, or teacher.

Interestingly enough, this finding is not explained by the possibility that the labelled girls were indeed heavier – there was in fact no difference in BMI at age 10 between the kids who responded “yes” and those, who did not.

Indeed, the findings remained robust even after correction for various demographic confounders.

These findings are concerning, as they suggest that simply being called “fat” as a kid, may put you on a track to weight gain irrespective of whether or not you actually carry excess weight to start with.

I am sure many of my readers will relate to these findings and can tell their own stories of how being “labelled” fat may have influenced their weight journeys.

Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgHunger JM, & Tomiyama AJ (2014). Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years. JAMA pediatrics PMID: 24781349