"Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals."
New York, April 29 - Do you often hear your parent, sibling, friend, classmate or teacher call you 'fat'? Be cautious as simply being called 'fat' makes young girls more likely to become obese.
According to a study, girls who are told that they are too fat at age 10 are more likely to be obese at age 19.
Simply being labeled as too fat has a measurable effect almost a decade later. We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this, said A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor of psychology at University of California, Los Angeles.
Even after we statistically removed the effects of their actual weight, their income, their race and when they reached puberty, the effect remained, she maintained.
The study looked at 1,213 African-American girls and 1,166 white girls living in Northern California, Cincinnati and Washington, DC, 58 percent of whom had been told they were too fat at age 10.
Overall, the girls labeled fat were 1.66 times more likely than the other girls to be obese at 19, the researchers found.
They also found that as the number people who told a girl she was fat increased, so did the likelihood that she would be obese nine years later.
It means it is not just that heavier girls are called too fat and are still heavy years later; being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese, said co-author Jeffrey Hunger, a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara.
Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals.
Recent research suggests that experiencing or anticipating weight stigma increases stress and can lead to overeating, Hunger added in a paper published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.