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Study: 'Fat Shaming' Doesn't Work

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Weight discrimination is common in modern society – at work, in dating, and even in the media.

But does shaming people help them lose weight? A new study says no, reported CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez on Wednesday.

Whether you call it weight discrimination, fat shaming, or just plain bullying, many people justify criticizing those who are overweight by thinking they're helping push people into shedding the pounds.

But the study said that is not the case. So what does that tell us about the best way to parent an overweight child?

The question is an important one, given that the problem of childhood obesity is rampant. The latest Centers for Disease Control statistics say nearly half of all American children are either overweight or obese.

And either consciously or not, people are subjected to weight bias or discrimination.

"The theory is if you make them feel ashamed, that then they will be more likely to engage in behavior to address the problem," said Dr. Michael Rosenbaum of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

But a new study has found that shaming has the opposite effect. Middle-aged adults who have been subjected to weight discrimination were much less likely to lose weight, and even gained weight as a result of their perceived fat-shaming.

And a number of studies have shown that overweight children have a tremendous risk of becoming overweight adults, so the time to do something about weight is early in life.

"It's really important for a child or parent to remember not to nag, and not to tiptoe on this issue," said Linda Frankenbach, chief executive officer of

Frankenbach's website specifically addresses how parents should talk to children about weight. But what a parent does is more important than what he or she says, Frankenbach said.

"Because a parent is such an important role model for a kid, so if a parent begins by modeling really healthy behavior by eating well herself, by having healthy food in the kitchen, by serving meals with logical portions, and by exercising," she said.

And sometimes, a child will listen to his or her doctor.

"I can have much more of a nonjudgmental and non-confrontational conversation," said Dr. Barney Softness of West End Pediatrics.

"I'd probably elicit the help of a professional in terms of how even to go about the conversation, so that it was both effective in addressing the problem, but not creating another problem," said mother Wendy Heilbutt. also suggests talking to your child alone in a quiet setting -- away from mirrors, fitting rooms and the dinner table. The site also advises not using words like obese, fat or diet.

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