Want to Lose Weight? Ditch the Mean Girls

Criticism from friends and family may lead to weight loss failure and weight gain

When it comes to the average young woman and her weight, nit-picky friends, lovers and family members may be her worst frenemies.

Social pressure — whether it’s from the popular kids in high school or your friends and family — may play a role in weight loss. A new study found that young women who receive positive feedback about their looks from loved ones may be more likely to lose or maintain their weight.

“Lots of research finds that social support improves our health,” said lead study author Christine Logel, PhD, an assistant professor of social development studies at the University of Waterloo in Canada, in an interview with Waterloo Stories. “An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are.”

According to this study, women who spent time with others who praised their eating habits and weight were more likely to maintain or achieve weight loss. On the other hand, women who faced criticism — whether they wanted to lose weight or not — often struggled with weight loss or even gained weight.

During this study, young women in universities who were worried about their weight were asked to speak to friends and family about their concerns. Their weight was then recorded periodically for up to nine months. Those who were told that they did not need to lose weight or who received positive feedback about their efforts often lost or maintained their weight over time.

The others did not fare as well.

Those women who received negative messages gained, on average, 4.5 pounds. According to Dr. Logel and team, critical comments increase stress — and stress often leads to weight gain.

“We know that stress causes weight gain over time,” Dr. Logel said to Yahoo! News. “Weight acceptance messages from loved ones just take the pressure off.”

And now you have an even bigger reason to avoid critical people. Your happiness — and your health — may depend on it.

This study was published Dec. 12 in the journal Personal Relationships.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.