Washington: A new study claims that women whose loved ones criticize their weight tend to gain more pounds.
Prof. Christine Logel at the University of Waterloo led the study, said that when a person felt bad about their bodies, they often turned to loved ones-families, friends and romantic partners-for support and advice, and how they responded could have a bigger effect than we might think.
The study found that women who received a higher number of "acceptance messages" about their weight saw better weight maintenance and even weight loss than their counterparts who did not receive this positive messaging from their loved ones.
The researchers studied university-age women, a demographic often dissatisfied with personal weight. The team of social psychologists asked the women their height and weight, and how they felt about what they see on the scale. About five months later, they asked them if they had talked to their loved ones about their concerns, and if so, how they had responded. About three months after that, they tracked whether their weight and their concerns about it changed in that time.
Overall, the women in the sample gained some weight over time, which is not uncommon for young adults. But if they got the message from their loved ones that they look fine, then they maintained or even lost a bit of weight. Women who received comparatively few weight acceptance messages from their loved ones gained almost 4.5 pounds on average, whereas women who received comparatively more weight acceptance messages lost a pound.
Pressure from loved ones about weight loss was not helpful for women already concerned about it. And it actually led women who weren't originally concerned about their weight to gain some weight.
The research suggests that feeling better about themselves caused the women to be more active or eat more sensibly. Receiving unconditional acceptance might have lowered their stress, a known cause of weight gain.
The study appears in the journal Personal Relationships.