Fat-Shaming Doesn’t Work, Is Mean

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It shouldn’t surprise anyone who has spent time in elementary-school hallways that ostracizing, ridiculing, or otherwise abusing overweight people doesn’t help them lose weight. But in case this point has been lost on anyone — and the persistent stigma against overweight people certainly suggests it has — a recent study adds to the mountain of evidence that fat-shaming doesn’t help people lose weight. In fact, it may do the opposite.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, tracked a large cohort of Brits ages 50 years or older. It found that those who reported having experienced discrimination, harassment, or threats as a result of their size were more likely to gain weight in the long run.

It’s a limited study because of the age of the participants, as well as the usual questions about causality, but it fits into a broader literature that suggests many ways fat-shaming could lead to weight gain, such as by increasing stress (which brings physiological changes conducive to weight gain) and causing the victim to turn to food for comfort. In short, fat-shaming is mean and pointless.