Oct 15, 2018 | Updated: 04:34 PM EDT

How Family Affects Your Weight

Dec 30, 2014 03:36 PM EST

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It seems your family and friends can have more of an effect on your weight than you may realize.  According to a new study in the journal of Personal Relationships, women whose loved ones are critical of their weight tend to put on even more pounds than they might have normally without the criticism.

"When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones - families, friends and romantic partners - for support and advice. How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think," said Professor Christine Logel from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo in Canada who led the study.

The study found that women that received more of what researchers called "acceptance messages" from their friends and family saw better weight management results, and even lost weight when compared with their counterparts that often received negative feedback from loved ones about their weight.

Researchers focused their study on university-age women.  The team asked the women their height and weight, as well as how they felt about the number they saw on the scale.  Five months later, they asked the women if they had talked to their loved ones about their weight and, if so, how did their loved ones respond.  About three months after that, they tracked how their weight and their concerns changed.

"On average, the women in the study were at the high end of Health Canada's BMI recommendations, so the healthiest thing is for them to maintain the weight they have and not be so hard on themselves," Logel says. "But many of the women were still very concerned about how much they weigh, and most talked to their loved ones about it."

Overall, the women in the sample gained some weight over time.  However, women who were told they looked fine often maintained their weight, or even lost a little.  Comparatively, women who received negative feedback about their weight often gained an average of 4.5 pounds. 

The results show that women who feel accepted often feel better about their bodies, and do not gain weight when compared to the women who are not accepted by their loved ones.  Pressure from loved ones about weight loss did not help the women who were already concerned about their weight and, in fact, had the opposite affect causing the women to actually gain weight instead of lose it.

Researchers suggest that feeling better about themselves caused the women in the study to be more active or eat more responsibly.  This unconditional acceptance might have also lowered their stress levels, which is also a known cause of weight gain. 

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