Study: Criticizing fat people for being overweight just makes them fatter

Study: Criticizing fat people for being overweight just makes them fatter

Fat person sittingIf you believe, to paraphrase songwriter Randy Newman, that fat people got no reason to live, then you are guilty of “sizism.” Like “ageism,” “racism,” and other evil “-isms,” sizism is the pernicious act of singling out an individual for criticism, ridicule, or worse based on his girth.

But a new study takes the sin of poking fun at the overweight a bit further.

Angelina Sutin, a psychologist at the Florida State College of Medicine in Tallahassee and one of the study’s authors, told NPR that discriminating against fat people only makes them fatter:

People often rationalize that it’s OK to discriminate based on weight because it will motivate the victim to lose pounds. But our findings suggest the opposite.

Sutin and a colleague checked survey data from more than 6,000 American men and women aged 50 and up, all of whom were asked how often in their daily lives they experienced forms of sizism ranging from discourtesy or refusal of restaurant service to not getting a job or promotion. The research team also measured the participants’ weight and height. Then four years later, the team followed up with the same respondents to track any changes in weight.

NPR’s Deborah Franklin writes:

Overweight people who said they’d experienced discrimination based on weight were more than twice as likely to be obese four years later than people who didn’t mention such discrimination. And those who started out obese were three times more likely to remain so if they’d been harshly targeted because of their weight. Other types of discrimination showed no effect on weight.

The study, published in the online journal “PLOS One,” doesn’t purport to explain why weight discrimination led many fat people to pack on even more pounds. But that’s the least of the study’s limitations. James Taranto points out in his column at The Wall Street Journal that Sutin and co-author Antonio Terracciano commit the logical fallacy of mistaking correlation for causation. “In addition,” Taranto writes, “one of the correlative factors — the feeling of being ‘harshly targeted because of their weight’ — is largely if not entirely subjective,” adding:

[The study’s] findings, at least as described by NPR, are equally consistent with the hypothesis that people who tend to feel they are victims of antiadipose discrimination also tend to lack self-control when it comes to diet and exercise.

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Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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