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Children and teens who are teased about weight are more likely to gain more

Increased stress and poor coping strategies can make matters worse

Photo (c) BananaStock - Getty Images
Being obese or overweight can be challenging for any consumer, but perhaps most for young children and teens. Whether it’s from genetics, circumstances out of their control, or just poor eating and exercise habits, young people feel a lot of pressure to fit in with their peers.

Unfortunately, not fitting in can come with an unhealthy dose of bullying in some cases. While some might think that being teased might prompt young people to change for the better, a recent study shows that the opposite may actually be true. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) say that children who are teased about their weight are more likely to pack on more weight.

“Among youths with, and at-risk for, overweight and obesity, weight-based teasing was associated with greater weight and fat gain,” they said.

Stress and binge eating

The team’s study involved having a group of over 100 participants answer a short series of questions about being teased about their weight. The researchers conducted annual follow-up sessions for 15 years and tracked how being ridiculed affected the weight of these young people.

The results showed that those who were teased more about their weight tended to gain more weight than those who weren’t teased as much, with the former group having gained nearly half a pound each year at the annual follow-up session.

“Youths reporting high weight-based teasing...experienced a 33 percent greater gain in BMI...and a 91 percent greater gain in fat mass...compared with peers who reported no weight-based teasing,” the researchers said.

The team theorizes that being teased more frequently caused these participants to act out in unhealthy ways, such as by binge eating and not exercising. They say that the stress of being bullied may also have caused their bodies to produce more of the hormone cortisol, which can cause weight gain.

The full study has been published in the journal Pediatric Obesity.

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