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Lack of family support can cause weight gain, study suggests


Women who experience a lack of supportive and accepting messages about their bodies from loved ones are more likely to gain weight than women who are told they look fine, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that "acceptance" messages helped women maintain and, in some cases, even lose weight. But women who did not receive this positive messaging from loved ones gained almost 4.5 pounds, on average, after about eight months.

"When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones - families, friends, and romantic partners - for support and advice," said Professor Christine Logel, study author. "How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think."

Acceptance breeds confidence

The participants involved in the study were college-aged women, a population that often struggles with body image concerns, the authors explained.

"On average, the women in the study were at the high end of Health Canada's BMI recommendations, so the healthiest thing is for them to maintain the weight they have and not be so hard on themselves," said Professor Logel. "But many of the women were still very concerned about how much they weigh, and most talked to their loved ones about it."

Researchers asked the women how they felt about their bodies, whether or not they had talked to their loved ones about their concerns, and how their families had responded to the topic.

Women who were concerned about their weight felt better about their bodies if loved ones showed acceptance, results showed. Criticism or lack of support, however, actually led women who didn't have initial body image concerns to gain weight.

"We all know someone who points out our weight gain or offers to help us lose weight," Logel said. "These results suggest that these comments are misguided."

The study is published in the journal Personal Relationships.

Source: University of Waterloo