by Anna Maltby
Arthur Elgort You might think that information about how overweight people are stigmatized -- i.e. it's harder for them to get hired, etc. -- might motivate overweight people to get healthy, but the truth appears to be the opposite.
Women who believe they are overweight may consume more food after learning about weight stigma, according to a new study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Researchers had self-perceived overweight women read an article they were told ran in The New York Times about how overweight people are less likely to get a new job, and compared them to a control group of self-perceived overweight women reading an article about how smokers struggle to get hired.
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The results were pretty stunning: Women who saw themselves as overweight and read about weight stigma actually had far less self-control and ate a whopping 65 percent more calories than their counterparts who read the smoking article.
The researchers say the effect could be about the power of social identity threat: "Social identity threat describes a stressful psychological state that occurs in situations where people feel like they could be discriminated against or devalued because of their social identity," study coauthor Jeffrey M. Hunger told SELF. (Appropriate name, right?)
And the authors believe that when they read about weight stigma, the women's minds were so consumed with worrying about their social identity that their willpower decreased significantly.
See more: 5 Simple Steps to Cellulite-Free SkinThat's counter to what many experts -- and plenty of the general public -- might think, Hunger says.
"Many people, including some scholars, believe that stigmatizing overweight individuals is 'for their own good' because it will motivate behavior change and engender weight loss. Our research suggests that this is simply not true," he says.
So what's to be done? We say: Start with health-focused content like many of the workouts and nutrition plans we offer up on SELF.com, like our amazing 14-Day Slimdown, of course.
"Unfortunately it can be difficult to avoid content that stigmatizes weight. However, self-perceived overweight women may be better off by engaging with health-focused as opposed to weight-focused content," Hunger says. "Among health writers, it is also important to consider the language used when talking about weight to avoid unintentionally stigmatizing overweight readers."