The formula for weight loss: diet, exercise and…kindness? Yep, the highest human virtue may be just what you need to slim down. In a recent study published in the journal Personal Relationships, dieting women whose loved ones were more accepting were able to maintain their weight or even lose a few pounds, while those who felt more criticized actually gained weight—4.5 pounds on average.

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For the study, researchers recruited 187 women to follow over a nine-month period. At first, they simply recorded the participants' height and weight and asked them how they felt about their bodies. Five months later, researchers asked the women how their loved onesincluding friends, partners and parentsresponded when they discussed their weight-loss concerns. At the end of the nine months, researchers found that those who received more messages of acceptance about their bodies were more likely to lose weight versus those who received fewer body-positive messages.

Why? It could be that the positive reinforcement gave participants the confidence to make better diet and exercise choices. It may have also reduced stress, researchers said in a release.

These results come on the heels of another recent study which suggested that “fat shaming,” or marginalizing or pressuring overweight people to change, doesn’t help them shed pounds and may even lead to more weight and health troubles.

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