A new study from Personal Relationships reveals a not-so-surprising fact about weight, acceptance, and other people's comments: While criticism leads to weight gain, support and acceptance are directly related to weight maintenance or loss.
Over the course of nine months, 187 college-age women — all of whom had expressed concern about their weight — were studied. They were asked whether they discussed their weight with friends, parents, and romantic partners, and if so what kinds of responses they received. By the end of the study, those who were criticized by loved ones had gained an average of 4.5 pounds. Those who had received messages of acceptance either maintained their weight or lost about a pound — and became less concerned with their size overall.
A similar study from this past September received a lot of press for proving that fat shaming doesn't work — except to make the target gain more weight. This new study echoes that evidence and takes it a step further. Yet, it's not as simple as "niceness makes you skinny and meanies make you fat." Being accepted by others has a healthy impact on your weight; it gives you permission to stop worrying about it. Dr. Logel and the other authors suggest that as women in the study's "acceptance" group became less concerned about their size, they naturally began to eat and exercise in a more healthy, sustainable way.
Anyone who's ever seen that look from their mom at the dinner table — or has received advice from a "concerned" friend — already knows that weight comments rarely inspire confidence and self-care. "Lots of research finds that social support improves our health," says Dr. Logel. "An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us, just the way we are." Isn't it nice when science gives you good reason to tell those jerks to STFU and surround yourself with kind people instead?