The only thing criticizing your partner’s body accomplishes is making you look like a total dick, new research confirms. The study of more than 1,000 men and women found that positive and negative weight-related comments were significantly linked with body-satisfaction, self-esteem, and overall depressive symptoms, but that feedback didn’t mean a damn thing for an individual’s weight loss or fitness level. Even seemingly innocent teasing failed to motivate significant others to tighten up.
“It appears that for significant others, both positive comments and saying nothing at all about weight are better options than negative comments,” study authors write.
A large body of research (no pun intended), links body-image and self-esteem to emotional health, and to future eating disorder and weight-gain risk. More specifically, there’s a smaller amount of research that suggests negative comments from significant others could cause disordered and controlling eating behaviors overtime, as well as issues with depression and substances abuse. While this can cause influence weight fluctuation, there is little evidence that putting your partner down will influence healthy weight loss in any way.
To confirm this, researchers surveyed 1,436 men and women in relationships, about their weight-controlling and exercise behaviors, as well as their emotional well-being. Participants reported if they received positive or negative feedback from their partners, and provided examples of these comments. Couples were generally more positive than negative in their comments, with 75 percent of comments being considered positive, versus 36 percent negative.
Results reveal that type of comments made by significant others was notably associated with body satisfaction, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms, for both men and women. Understandably, people who only experienced positive feedback were the best off emotionally, and those who only heard what was wrong with their bodies were set up for the worst mental health. But regardless of positive or negative, comments made largely no difference when it came to weight-controlling and exercise behaviors. Simply, a playful pinch of the love-handles isn’t going to help get anyone to the gym, but it may make the person you love pretty depressed.
Though the findings make a compelling case against the notion that negging your spouse could motivate them to get fit, they’re not without limitations related to self-reported data. While it’s always possible that individual perceptions, particularly the preoccupation with negative feedback over positive, could skew results, future research could be strengthened from including the accounts of both sides of the couple, as opposed to individuals who happen to be in relationships. Additional studies would also benefit from larger, more diverse samples, as more than 70 percent of the people tracked in this study were white.
All caveats considered, it’s unlikely that additional studies will suggest that putting your spouse down will help them lose anything other than, well, you. And if your spouse seems like they’re taking a jab at your dad-bod for the greater good, the science isn’t on their side either.
“Romantic couples would be well served by identifying the most effective and least harmful ways to communicate health messages to each other,” researchers recommend. When in doubt, it’s best to keep your hungry mouth shut.