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Little Girls Labeled ‘Fat’ More Likely to Become Obese Adults

diploma black girlA new study reveals that girls who were called “fat” as children were more likely to become obese as adults.

Ten-year-old girls who had been told they were “too fat” were more likely to find themselves in the obese range of the body mass index by age 19.

Researchers from UCLA analyzed data from surveys given to 1,166 white girls and 1,213 African-American girls in Northern California, Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati. The height and weight of the girls were measured at the beginning of the study and again nine years later.

The data was used from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Growth and Health Study.

Of the roughly 2,300 girls surveyed, 1,188 of them answered “yes” when asked if they had ever been told they were “too fat.” Girls who had been told they were “fat” by a friend, peer, or non-family member were 1.4 times more likely to be obese — while a girl who was told the same by a family member was 1.62 higher risk.

The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, reveals that commenting on a girl’s weight at an early age is counterproductive.

The study’s senior author, Dr. Janet Tomiyama, assistant professor of psychology in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, said: “Simply being labeled as too fat has a measurable effect almost a decade later. We nearly fell off our chairs when we discovered this. Even after we statistically removed the effects of their actual weight, their income, their race and when they reached puberty, the effect remained. That means it’s not just that heavier girls are called too fat and still heavy years later; being labeled as too fat is creating an additional likelihood of being obese.”

Making girls feel badly about their weight can be demoralizing. When people feel bad about themselves, they often look to comfort food to help mask their stress.

S.C. Rhyne is a blogger and novelist in New York City. Follow the author on Twitter @ReporterandGirl, and visit her website at

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