Weight stigmatization and bias reduction: perspectives of overweight and obese adults.
This study employed qualitative methods with a sample of overweight and obese adults to identify and describe their subjective experiences of weight bias. Participants (274 females and 44 males) completed an online battery of self-report questionnaires, including several open-ended questions about weight stigmatization. These questions asked them to describe their worst experiences of weight stigmatization, their perceptions of common weight-based stereotypes, their feelings about being overweight and their suggestions for strategies to reduce weight stigma in our culture. Participants reported experiencing weight stigma across a range of contexts and involving a variety of interpersonal sources. Close relationship partners (such as friends, parents and spouses) were the most common source of their worst stigmatizing encounters. Participants challenged common weight-based stereotypes (notably, that obese individuals are 'lazy') and reported that they would like the public to gain a better understanding of the difficulties of weight loss, the causes of obesity and the emotional consequences of being stigmatized. Education was reported as the most promising avenue for future stigma-reduction efforts. The experiences and opinions expressed were not significantly different for men versus women or overweight versus obese individuals. A minority of participants expressed beliefs suggestive of self-blame and internalization of weight-based stereotypes. These results indicate that while obese individuals experience weight bias across many domains, more stigma-reduction efforts should target stigmatizing encounters in close relationships, including parents, spouses and friends of obese persons.
Puhl, RM; Moss-Racusin, CA; Schwartz, MB; Brownell, KD
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