(Reuters Health) – For teen girls, being called “fat” by friends or family may contribute to later developing eating disorders, and the harsh word from family members seems to carry the most weight, a recent U.S. study suggests.
Weight stigma – the negative stereotypes, social devaluation and pervasive mistreatment of heavier individuals – is strongly implicated in disordered eating, the research team writes in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Previous studies have found that being teased about weight is associated with binge eating and unhealthy weight control behaviors in boys and increased dieting in girls. The current study is one of the first to look at the long-term consequences of being labeled as “too fat,” the authors note.
“How we talk about weight – especially with young girls – can have really negative effects on mental and physical health,” said lead author Jeffrey Hunger, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Labeling young girls as ‘too fat’ will never spur positive health behaviors; it is simply going to result in poor body image, unhealthy weight control practices, and disordered eating,” he told Reuters Health in an email.