When a friend or family member starts engaging in fat talk, it’s natural to tell her to stop. She’s being crazy, she does not need to lose any weight. But sometimes, if a friend needs to develop healthier habits and get to a healthier weight, we want to be honest and help her achieve her goals, right?Not so much: A new study conducted at Renison University College at the University of Waterloo and published in the December issue of the journal Personal Relationships, found that comments supporting our friends’ fat talk may actually do the exact opposite of what we hope. Specifically, criticism can lead to more weight gain instead of motivating women to lose a few pounds.Researchers asked a group of college-aged women how they felt about their weight, and wrote down how much they weighed at the beginning of the study. On average, the women’s BMIs fell at the high end of Health Canada’s BMI recommendations. Five months later, they were asked if they had brought up their body image concerns with their loved ones. Three months after that, researchers checked in again about the women’s weight concerns and noted how they changed.What they found was that, unsurprisingly, most of the women brought up concerns about their weight to family and friends during this time. The women who were given support and told they looked fine either maintained or even lost some weight. But those who received very few messages or feelings of acceptance from their loved ones ended up gaining weight — almost 4.5 pounds on average.”When we feel bad about our bodies, we often turn to loved ones—families, friends and romantic partners—for support and advice,” noted study lead professor Christine Logel. “How they respond can have a bigger effect than we might think.”These results show that feeling support from the people who care about you, and hearing that you’re fine the way you are, makes you feel better about yourself and in turn, treat your body right and engage in healthy activities. “Lots of research finds that social support improves our health,” said Professor Logel. “An important part of social support is feeling that our loved ones accept us just the way we are.”Sometimes we pride ourselves on being honest, and when a loved one is a little overweight we want to help her work toward her goal. But this research suggests that giving our friends some confidence and letting them know we love them as is might be the more effective way to help them on a path toward healthier habits overall.Related Articles:Why Thin Women Fat TalkYour 3-Step Body Confidence MakeoverMy Friends Deserve Better Than Fat TalkWhat I’ve Learned About Size and Body Image by Dating a Fat Man