- Weight stigma is a bias or discrimination relating directly to weight. Despite the fact that more than half of U.S. citizens are larger-bodied, our society holds a strong negative bias against fatness.
- The media reinforces weight stigma. The media, such as news media, displays persons in larger bodies in stigmatizing ways by depicting them sitting and eating unhealthy foods, wearing ill-fitting clothes, headless, or with their abdomens showing.
- Weight stigma is based on the belief that weight is under one’s personal control. This belief suggests that larger persons are undisciplined and inactive. However, when weight is attributed to uncontrollable factors such as diabetes or hypertension, people’s attitudes change.
- Weight stigma exists in romantic relationships. Romantically, people in larger bodies are less preferred. They are less preferred in comparison to those who are in wheelchairs, mentally ill, or those who have sexually transmitted diseases.
- Weight stigma starts as early as preschool. Children ages 3-5 negatively characterize larger children as mean, ugly, stupid and sloppy. As children get older they start believing their larger peers are lazy, less popular, and less happy. College students report that their peers in larger bodies are lazy, self-indulgent, and less attractive, with low self-esteem and deserving less attractive partners.
- Teachers have a weight bias towards heavier students. They believe their larger students lack self-control and are less likely to succeed.
- Health professionals are also biased. Health professionals treating individuals with eating disorders report believing that larger patients do not comply with treatment recommendations and perceive poor treatment outcomes. Those strongly biased believe larger body sizes are the result of overeating and lack of motivation.
- Individuals in larger bodies have internalized stigma. The most common anti-fat bias among larger individuals is the belief that they are lazier and less motivated than thinner individuals. The failed attempts of individuals in larger bodies to lose weight may cause them to begin to internalize society’s beliefs that they are lazy and lack willpower.
- Weight stigma increases binge eating. Weight stigma causes psychological distress such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. It is also associated with poor body image and increased fear of fat.
- Weight stigma experiences are as common as other forms of discrimination. In women, it is as common as racial discrimination. In some cases, it is more common than gender and age discrimination.
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