“You’d be so pretty if you just lost a few pounds.” We’ve all heard this from a family member before. Well, it turns out, that well-meaning yet misguided compliment is actually more harmful than we think, according to new study from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo.
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“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 lead author Professor Christine Logel.
Logel and her team worked with a group of university-aged women and asked them how they felt about their weight. After five months, researchers asked the women if they had spoken with their loved ones about their insecurities, and what their reactions were about their weight. Another three months later, researchers asked the women to record their current weight and how they felt.
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Overall, some of the women did gain weight during the five month-long period, which Logel notes is completely normal for women of that age. However, the women who received the most positive feedback and acceptance from their family members pretty much maintained their weight or even lost some weight. (Note: The women who had a smaller support system gained an average of 4.5 pounds.)
So what does that mean? According to Logel and her team, receiving “acceptance messages” could make you feel better overall and might actually help you shed some pounds. On the other hand, negative comments can increase stress, which could lead to weight gain. So if your family stresses you out, especially during the holidays, you may want to consider spending less time around them.
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This story originally appeared on GoodHousekeeping.com