Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years | Obesity | JAMA Pediatrics | JAMA Network
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Research Letter
June 2014

Weight Labeling and Obesity: A Longitudinal Study of Girls Aged 10 to 19 Years

Author Affiliations
  • 1University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 2University of California, Los Angeles
JAMA Pediatr. 2014;168(6):579-580. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.122

Anti-obesity efforts that rely on stigmatizing weight (eg, using harsh language or stereotypical portrayals of overweight individuals) may impede health promotion efforts, as weight stigma is often negatively related to behavior change and thus seems unlikely to result in weight loss.1 Indeed, considerable research underscores the detrimental effects of weight stigma on the physical health and well-being of children and adolescents,2 and nationally representative, longitudinal data show weight-based discrimination is associated with weight gain among older individuals.3 Although the childhood weight stigma literature frequently examines overt and often malicious behaviors (eg, bullying), stigma processes can begin when an individual experiences weight labeling.4 By labeling someone as overweight, the negative stereotypes, status loss, and mistreatment associated with this label may now be applicable to the individual. Recent research suggests that the negative psychological effects of weight stigma can begin when one is simply labeled as “too fat” by others.5 However, the relationship between weight labeling and weight gain remains unknown. Thus, we examined if weight labeling during childhood was related to the likelihood of having an obese body mass index (BMI) nearly a decade later.