Another Reason To Stop Calling Little Girls “Fat”

Think that fat-shaming is just words? Think again.

A new study from UCLA published in JAMA Pediatrics shows that girls who are picked on about their weight at a young age are much more likely to be obese later in life.

The study proves that fat-shaming as a way to encourage young women to diet isn’t just cruel, it has the opposite effect.

The study, which looked at 2,379 girls, found that 58 percent were told they were “too fat” by age 10. That’s not all. Researchers discovered that those girls were almost twice as likely to become obese nine years later. And get this—the more often a child was told she was “fat,” the likelier she was to be obese.

“That means it’s not just that heavier girls are called too fat and are heavy years later,” wrote A. Janet Tomiyama, the senior author of the study. “Being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese.”

Why? The authors speculate that being labeled overweight makes young women worry about the stigma of having weight issues. That kind of thinking can lead to overeating, making the label a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It means, more than anything, that messages from friends, family, or the media critiquing a little girl’s body can actually shape her body.  Words are powerful. We should use them more carefully.