Encouraging Someone to Lose Weight Has the Opposite Effect

It’s natural to want your friends and family members to get healthy, but you may want to stop short of actually recommending that someone you care for lose weight. New research finds that advising someone to get healthier – even from a perspective of genuine concern — is actually counterproductive to that goal.

The study, conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, focused on young adult women of various weights. After five months, researchers checked in with their test subjects again to see not only if their weight changed, but what kind of feedback the women were receiving from their loved ones about their weight. Those who had a loved one who encouraged them to lose weight actually gained an average of nearly five pounds.

While offering a friend dieting tips or encouragement to lose weight may be well intentioned, they aren’t ultimately helpful. “We all know someone who points out our weight gain or offers to help us lose weight,” said Professor Christine Logel, head researcher on this study. “These results suggest that these comments are misguided.”

What’s the better approach? Staying out of it altogether works, but according to the research, the even better approach is as simple as being kind and accepting. The women who had loved ones say positive things about their appearance actually lost an average of a pound.

Why would women who feel better the way they are actually lose weight, though? It boils down to feeling comfortable and loved. When you feel good about yourself, you’re more likely to take care of yourself. Without receiving the hurtful opinions and implications from their nearest and dearest, they were psychologically in a better position to exercise and eat healthy.

“Lots of research finds that social support improves our health,” said Logel. “An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are.” Even those who received positive affirmations that didn’t lose weight at least tended to maintain their weight, which is a better scenario than packing on extra pounds.

This study aligns with another recent study out of Brigham Young University. This research focused on teenagers and aimed to discover which types of motivations were successful in helping adolescents to lose weight. Those who were pressured by friends and family members were not nearly as successful in dropping weight as those who found their own motivation to do so. Pressuring kids to lose weight just made it more difficult for them to do, so once again, supporting and accepting teenagers as they are seems like the better way to set them up for potential success.


John Vickers
John Vickers2 years ago

As a health care professional, what you eat creates what you see and don't see regarding your body. The psychological reasons why people make the choices they do about how they treat their body is vast. Our nature is to do the opposite of what people tell us to do which can result in horrendous consequences whether we want to admit it or not. The thoughts we have, create our actions which produce results (good or bad). Sometimes getting professional help (psychological) to restructure our thoughts can have a positive impact on our lives and the loved ones around us. How much better would your life be if you stop with the reasons why you don't take care of yourself and take actions that create love for yourself?

donald Baumgartner

The title said it All !!!

Michael Kirkby
.3 years ago

Making it taboo or even hinting at it plays tricks in our minds. It's that childish portion of our brain that wants to test the boundaries.

Janet B.
Janet B3 years ago


Aaron Bouchard
Aaron Bouchard3 years ago

thank you

Myriam G.
Myriam G3 years ago

Sometimes, when someone brings up their struggle with weight loss, they say: "I know I'm over-weight, but, what can I do, I just love eating". In turn, I say; "Good for you! Eating is a great pleasure of life. I love eating, too", and the conversation switches to the foods we love, and the pleasure brought about by a good meal. We talk about different kinds of foods, how variety helps keeping a well-balanced diet, and which foods really make us feel good.
A positive, non-judgmental view of food helps, too.

Natasha R.
Natasha R3 years ago

lol @ Put down the cookie. Get up and walk. Mark V.

Alina Kanaski
Alina Kanaski3 years ago

Interesting. Thanks for sharing!

Miriam O.

Thank you for sharing!

Ionela Voroneanu-Branea

I never give advice about weight loss. I became angry when people told me that I gained weight so, you never know how the advice is embraced.