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Study finds fat-shaming harms health

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Aug 7, 2017 9:00 AM
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(Harrisburg) -- A new review of medical research has found the practice of "fat-shaming" can be detrimental to a person's health.

In the review presented at the American Psychological Association's recent annual convention, Maureen McHugh from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania found overweight people's experiences in doctors' offices can give them a negative attitude about seeking medical care, even if they have health concerns.

She points to research showing medical staff don't like to touch overweight patients, and the medical equipment and hospital gowns are often not the right size for larger patients.

McHugh says the shame felt can lead to a loss of self-esteem, body disatisfaction, a preoccupation with eating or not eating, and even isolation from family and friends.

"If they feel bad psychologically and they go to a psychologist, they often feel worse, because they have the same attitudes about losing weight and being normal weight as if that's a precondition for life, but it doesn't work that way," McHugh said.

McHugh says she hopes her work will help health care professionals treat all patients with respect.

She adds she has seen no convincing research that losing weight helps people gain health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who are obese are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke and other serious conditions compared to people at a healthy weight.

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