America is in the midst of an "obesity epidemic," and one of the ways to deal with it is to educate overweight people about the dangers of being overweight. That makes sense. Warn them of the dangers of being overweight and they'll be inspired to lose.
Except it doesn't work.
A 2011 study showed that after watching a video on "weight stigma," overweight women ate three times as much from a buffet as the overweight women who had been shown a "neutral" video.
This makes sense to me. When you're made to feel bad about yourself, it's tempting to comfort yourself by eating tasty foods.
So the physician or diabetes educator who keeps nagging overweight patients about their weight may simply be driving them to eat more. In fact, it's possible that simply weighing us every time we see a doctor could have a negative effect.
Overweight people know they're overweight, and most of them are trying to lose. They don't need to be reminded of the problem.They don't need to be told it's unhealthy. Congratulating them on some positive improvement in their health instead of pointing out that they haven't lost weight since the last visit might in fact be the best way to get them to lose.
Another study, this one in adolescents enrolled in weight-loss programs, showed that although the adolescents were enthusiastic about receiving text message tips for weight control, they preferred "positive, encouraging, and direct messages" including smiley faces and exclamation points. But they didn't like receiving acronyms such as "LOL" (laughing out loud) or "OMG" (oh my god) from health care personnel.
Negative messages were apt to make them eat more. The adolescents said that "any mention of unhealthy foods or behaviors would trigger them to eat those foods or engage in those behaviors." Forbidden fruit is always tempting.
Again, encouragement is helpful for weight loss. Pointing out problems is not. It would be nice if the news media, which is always nattering on about the "obesity epidemic" and how it's causing diabetes rates to soar, could keep quiet for a bit. Unfortunately, they probably won't.
But at least someone should campaign to educate physicians, nurses, and diabetes educators about the negative results that often result from nagging people about their weight. Then maybe we'd see a "weight-loss epidemic."
Wouldn't that be wonderful! (Note exclamation point.)
Published On: December 19, 2011