Telling a young girl that she’s fat may backfire on your good intentions and put her at risk of obesity in her teens. A new study from UCLA checked the weights of more than 2,300 10-year-old girls in California, Washington, D.C. and Cincinnati. The researchers noted that at the start of the study 58 percent of the girls reported that they had been told they were too fat by a parent, sibling, teacher, classmate or friend. When the researchers went back to check the girls at age 19, they found that the ones who had been told they were too fat years earlier were 1.66 times more likely to be obese than other girls in the study. This held true even after the researchers factored in the girls’ actual weight, their income, race, and when they reached puberty. “We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this," said study senior author A. Janet Tomiyama in a UCLA press release. When people feel bad, they tend to eat more, not decide to diet or take a jog, she said. Making people feel bad about their weight could increase their levels of cortisol [the stress hormone], which generally leads to weight gain.
A.J. Tomiyama and J.M. Hunger, “Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 years,” JAMA Pediatrics, doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.