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How Fear of Rejection Makes You Gain Weight

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Whether you're being ditched by a friend, ghosted by a date, or turned down for a promotion at work, getting rejected is one of the worst feelings a human can have. But it turns out that just the fear of rejection can be bad for your health, particularly if you're overweight, according to a new Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study. (Trying to drop pounds? We have your 30-Day Slim Down Plan.)

Researchers asked 160 people to create either a video or audio presentation of why they would make a good date, which would then be viewed by "a very attractive member of the opposite sex." (Wow, that's not terrifying at all!) Overweight women in the video group, the ones who knew that their bodies would be seen, were much more likely to expect to be rejected by the unknown hottie, according to the study. (Here are 5 Ways to Get Confident, No Therapy Required.)

Being ranked by unseen hot men is hard enough but the researchers found that just the fear of rejection (they weren't actually ranked by anyone) tanked these women's self-esteem, stressed them out, and made their anxiety skyrocket. The study also found that this fear made overweight women less likely to do things that would help them lose weight, and may also have made them more likely to gain weight. Thin women did not experience these negative effects and even felt more confident knowing they'd be on video, saying they had high expectations of being accepted.

"It seems inevitable that in a slew of different situations, such as going to the grocery store or gym, they [overweight women] are going to be worried about being rejected or evaluated unfavorably due to their weight," Alison Blodorn, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral research associate at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said in a press release. "And this can lead to long-term decreases in well-being."

This jives with previous findings. We know that fat-shaming doesn't help people lose weight and that people who are unhappy with their bodies have a much harder time reaching a healthy weight. And now, we know that even without having a negative experience, just anticipating rejection can lead to a bunch of problems for overweight women—problems which then build on and exacerbate each other, creating a perfect storm of bad health, Blodorn said in the same release.

Chalk this up to yet another reason to ditch negative weight biases and feel more comfortable and accepted in your own skin. (See: Why It's OK to Not Be Skinny.)

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