‘Thin-shaming’ is a thing and it’s causing more and more people to abandon healthy eating, says research
It’s known as ‘lean-stigma’
Your new year’s diet could be at risk due to ‘slim shaming’ from the very people you would expect to support you, a new study reveals. As the pounds fall off, family and work colleagues can make snide remarks, even saying that the weight will just pile back on.
The North Carolina State University study says that people around you can try to undermine and sabotage your diet, even subconsciously. Lead author and Professor of Communication, Lynsey Romo, said: “Many times, when someone loses weight, that person’s efforts are undermined by friends, family or coworkers. This study found that people experience a ‘lean stigma’ after losing weight, such as receiving snide remarks about healthy eating habits or having people tell them that they’re going to gain all of the weight back.”
Romo conducted 40 in-depth interviews with people who considered themselves thin at the time of the interview but had been overweight or obese. Of the 40, 21 were women, 19 were men and they had lost an average 76.9 pounds, nearly five and a half stone.
She said: “All 40 of the study participants reported having people in their lives try to belittle or undermine their weight loss efforts. This negative behaviour is caused by what I call lean stigma.”
But the study also uncovered the ways in which participants fought off the negativity to continue to lose weight. Professor Romo added: “The study found participants used specific communication strategies to cope with lean stigma and maintain both their weight loss and their personal relationships. Study participants would go out of their way to make clear that they were not judging other people’s choices. For example, participants would stress that they had changed their eating habits for health reasons, or in order to have more energy.”
The study, published in the journal Health Communication found that some participants felt ‘ashamed’ of their diet and would eat smaller portions of unhealthy foods at family gatherings. Others would accept food from friends but not actually eat it, such as cake at a party. Romo found that telling those near to you your intentions before the diet started helped them to ‘save face’ and not feel uncomfortable about a change in eating habits and lifestyle changes.
She added: “Overall, the study highlights how important relationships are to making sustainable lifestyle changes and the importance of communication in how we navigate those relationships.”