Obesity More Likely When Calling Children ‘Too Fat’ Study Finds

obesityA recent study has found that calling a child “too fat” is more likely to lead to obesity. While the name-calling should convince children that they need to watch their weight, it has the opposite effect psychologically. More children are likely to comfort eat and that leads to further weight gain.

UCLA researchers published their findings in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, which showed the psychological side effects of name calling. The report showed that 10-year-old girls who were called fat were more likely to be overweight or obese by the time they were 19-years-old. It did not matter whether they were overweight to start with.

The name calling gets into the subconscious. Children start to feel bad about the way they look, and it is demoralizing to hear that others believe they are overweight. Even those who are within healthy weight rangers were affected by the name calling. According to an psychology assistant professor at UCLA, Janet Tomiyama, “when people feel bad, they often reach out to food for comfort.” It seems this has happened in the cases seen during the research.

There has been a lot of support for shaming people into losing weight. The idea is that if people hear that they are overweight enough and are belittled for that, they will take action to lose weight. However, Tomiyama and her fellow researchers has shown that it is the exact opposite. Obesity is more likely to happen when children are called “too fat” or something similar according to the findings from the study.

The study showed that there were certain people who could cause the comfort eating over others. Girls who heard that they were “too fat” by a member of their own families, including a mother, father or sibling, were 1.62 times more likely to gain weight. Those labeled fat by someone not within their family were only1.4 times more likely to be affected.

There are now questions over how to deal with the growing problem of children being obese. Many family members want the best for their young girls, and telling them that they are too fat is one way of doing that. However, Tomiyama suggests that parents stay away from the term “fat.” It is important to support a healthy lifestyle, and that is possible without the term.

Encouraging healthy eating from a young age is a benefit. This instils habits that are carried forward into later years. Following a healthy and balanced lifestyle will not just prevent obesity. It will help the overall health. According to the British Heart Foundation, a healthy diet will help to prevent coronary heart disease, among other heart-related illnesses.

The number one healthy eating tip from the National Health Service (NHS) is to learn the number of calories needed for a daily basis, and only eat that many. This will help to avoid the storing of calories, and avoids weight gain. To lose weight, cut down on the number of calories eaten. This is something parents can help children do without using the terms fat.

Supporting children is the most important think, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. It is worth avoiding the term “too fat,” as the recent UCLA study has found that this term means children are more likely to suffer from obesity later in life.

By Alexandria Ingham


Los Angeles Times

British Heart Foundation

National Health Service

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