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The Psychological Impact of Weight Concerns Differs Between the Sexes

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"These are very important findings, but we need to be very careful how we interpret them," David B. Sarwer, PhD, director of education at the weight and eating disorder program at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, tells WebMD.

"We don't want to fall into the stereotype trap that obesity causes depression. ... Rather, I think we can interpret [the results] as saying that in a society that puts such a premium on being thin, and equates thinness with beauty and success, it is very difficult to be an obese individual. Walking around in such a society may contribute to things like [clinical] depression and suicidal ideation. Being obese can take an emotional toll," says Sarwer, who was not involved in the study.

Linda Korman, MD, a family physician who specializes in weight management, says, "It's exactly what I've seen in my medical practice. Depression is very common in obese women. I feel that depression has a lot to do with the expectations society has of women -- our society is so driven by thinness for women. ... Women must learn to strive to have a healthier body weight, not just an ideal weight." Korman is also affiliated with the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

"I also feel there's such a prejudice against obese individuals. ... Do we poke fun at people with diabetes or cancer? Of course not. So why can we be allowed to make fun of obese individuals? We have to bring obesity into the realm of a medical disorder," says Korman.

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