Never underestimate the power of a kind word. In a new study published in Personal Relationships, women who heard words of acceptance about their size tended to either maintain their weight or lose a little bit; on the other hand, women whose friends and family criticized them about their weight tended to gain more of it — four and a half pounds on average.
More on the study, which was led by Christine Logel, of the University of Waterloo, from its press release:
The researchers studied university-age women, a demographic often dissatisfied with personal weight. The team of social psychologists asked the women their height and weight, and how they felt about what they see on the scale. About five months later, they asked them if they had talked to their loved ones about their concerns, and if so, how they had responded. About three months after that, they tracked whether their weight and their concerns about it changed in that time.
… Overall, the women in the sample gained some weight over time, which is not uncommon for young adults. But if the women got the message from their loved ones that they look fine, then they maintained or even lost a bit of weight. Women who received comparatively few weight acceptance messages from their loved ones gained almost 4.5 pounds on average, whereas women who received comparatively more weight acceptance messages lost a pound.
Research in psychology has shown that strong feelings of social support increase our physical health in many ways — most recently, a study found a link between a stronger immune system and hugs, of all things. This new paper adds to the evidence that the people around us can influence not just our behavior, but our health, too. “We all know someone who points out our weight gain or offers to help us lose weight. These results suggest that these comments are misguided,” Logel said in the release. “Lots of research finds that social support improves our health. An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are.”