Labelling people as obese acts as a slur

Sydney: Labelling someone obese is more negative than calling them fat, says a study that suggests that people`s perceptions are not based on logic but on emotional responses to words.

The findings are based on a study of 425 undergraduate students.

"The study reinforces earlier findings that, given the choice between fat and obese, the term fat is the lesser of two evils," says University of New South Wales psychologist Lenny Vartanian.

The term `obese` is perceived as more negative because it is viewed as a medical problem, while the term fat is something we are more familiar with, says Vartanian, according to the journal Eating and Weight Disorder.

"We are all a little bit fat, we all know someone who is fat - it`s a concept we deal with regularly," a New South Wales statement quotes him as saying.

"Research tells us that shaming overweight and obese people into changing their diet and exercise behaviour does not work - it actually backfires, causing them to be less likely to diet and exercise," the psychologist says.

"Recent evidence also suggests that disgust plays an important role in judgments of obese individuals," he adds.