Sydney: Think again before passing a nasty remark to your obese friend, as shaming overweight people can be counterproductive. New findings reveal weight stigma can have a negative influence on people's motivation to exercise, says Lenny Vartanian from the University of New South Wales.

“Research tells us that shaming overweight and obese people into changing their diet and exercise behaviour... actually backfires, causing them to be less likely to diet and exercise,” says Vartanian, the journal Obesity reports.

Vartanian, a psychologist, surveyed 111 adult men and women who responded to ads for a study on the 'life experience of overweight individuals'. 

Almost half reported experiencing some form of weight stigma at least once a week, according to a New South Wales statement. 

The more stigma they experienced, the more they thought negatively about themselves and the less motivated they were to exercise.

'It emerged that overweight and obese people regularly experience discrimination because of their weight... As well as the health problems they are more likely to encounter, overweight and obese people also suffer a great deal of prejudice, discrimination and poor treatment from others,' said Vartanian, who led the study.