When working with individuals who are overweight or obese, it is wise to watch your words.

Research published recently in PLoS ONE (2013; 8 [7]: e70048) found that subjects who experienced discrimination because of their weight were more likely to become or remain obese than those who didn’t encounter discrimination.

The study followed 6,157 participants from 2006 to 2010. Height and weight measurements were taken at the beginning and end of the study. Subjects answered questions about discrimination, and the researchers looked for any associations between the responses and several characteristics, including weight.

The questionnaire revealed that 513 of the participants had experienced weight-related discrimination. The researchers also learned that weight gain was more common among those subjects than among others who didn’t experience discrimination.

“Participants who experienced weight discrimination were approximately 2.5 times more likely to become obese by follow-up and participants who were obese at baseline were three times more likely to remain obese at follow-up than those who had not experienced such discrimination,” the authors explained.

They added that anyone attempting to steer an overweight or obese individual toward weight loss should choose his or her words carefully.

“The present research demonstrates that, in addition to [resulting in] poorer mental health outcomes, weight discrimination has implications for obesity. Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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