Some people believe that making obese individuals feel bad about themselves, or “fat shaming,” as it is popularly called, is an effective way to get a person to lose weight. But a recent study featured on NBC News says otherwise. Apparently, fat shaming may actually be counterproductive and may even cause additional weight gain.

Researchers led by study author Angelina Sutin from the Florida State University College of Medicine assessed the body mass index of 6,157 volunteers, aged 50 and up, in 2006 and in 2010.

Although the participants were a mix of people with different body types, experts found that overweight individuals who were discriminated due to their weight in 2006 were more likely to become obese by 2010. On the other hand, those who were already obese in 2006 and experienced some form of scrutiny were three times more likely to gain more weight by 2010.

Are the results somewhat surprising? Perhaps they are not so far-fetched.

"Stigma and discrimination are really stressors, and, unfortunately, for many people, they're chronic stressors,” says Rebecca Phul, deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. “And we know that eating is a common reaction to stress and anxiety—that people often engage in more food consumption or more binge eating in response to stressors, so there is a logical connection here in terms of some of the maladaptive coping strategies to try to deal with the stress of being stigmatized.

If you really want to help, try going for a positive approach instead. Promoting love of self through a healthy lifestyle can do more wonders than a social stigma that adds more weight on them literally and figuratively.

(Photo by Karin Vlietstra via Flickr Creative Commons)

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