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Study: Young Girls More Likely To Become Obese If They Are Being Called ‘Fat’

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File photo of a female stepping on a scale. (Credit: Thinkstock)

File photo of a female stepping on a scale. (Credit: Thinkstock)

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ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – According to a new study, girls who are told they are too fat by either a parent, sibling, friend, classmate, or teacher are more likely to be obese by the time they hit age 19.

Psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, based their findings on a study of 1,213 African-American girls and 1,116 white girls who were residents of Northern California, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C. That data came from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is part of the National Institute of Health. The researchers measured the girl’s height and weight at the beginning and end of the study; then again nine years later. Of the participants, 58 percent were told that they were too fat when they were 10 years old.

The researchers noticed that girls who were called fat at age 10 had a higher risk of becoming obese at age 19 compared to the girls that were not called fat at age 10.

“Simply being labeled as too fat has a measurable effect almost a decade later,” A. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science and the senior author on the study, told Science World Report. “Even after we statistically removed the effects of their actual weight, their income, their race, and when they reached puberty, the effect remained.”

The researchers say that calling someone fat can trigger unhealthy behavior in young girls that will lead to obesity later in life.

“Being labeled as too fat may lead people to worry about personally experiencing the stigma and discrimination faced by overweight individuals, and recent research suggests that experiencing or anticipating weight stigma increases stress and can lead to overeating,” Jeffrey Hunger, a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say childhood obesity has more than doubled in children in the past 30 years. The CDC also reported in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

The study was documented in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

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