As a follow-up to last week’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week, here are 10 facts about weight stigma.
By: Liliana Almeida, M.A.,
Registered Psychological Assistant to Lauren Muhlheim, Psy.D.
- Weight stigma is a bias or discrimination relating directly to weight. Despite the fact that more than half of U.S. citizens are overweight, our society holds a strong negative bias against fatness.
- The media reinforces weight stigma. The media, such as news media, displays obese persons 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 obesity is under one’s personal control. This belief suggests that obese persons are undisciplined and inactive. However,when obesity is attributed to uncontrollable factors such as diabetes or hypertension, people’s attitudes change.
- Weight stigma exists in romantic relationships. Romantically,obese partners 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 overweight children as mean, ugly, stupid and sloppy.As children get older they start believing their overweight peers are lazy, less popular, and less happy. College students report that their overweight peers 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 overweight 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 obese patients do not comply with treatment recommendations and perceive poor treatment outcomes. Those strongly biased believe obesity is due to overeating and lack of motivation.
- Overweight or obese individuals have internalized stigma. The most common anti-fat bias among overweight individuals is the belief that they are lazier and less motivated than thinner individuals. The failed attempts of overweight individuals to lose weight may cause them to begin to internalize society’s beliefs that they are lazy and lack will power.
- 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.
Liliana Almeida, M.A., is a fourth year Clinical Psychology Ph.D. student at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University in Los Angeles. She received her M.A. from The New School and her B.A. from Rutgers University. During the last 7 years she has researched eating disorders, obesity, and weight stigma. Her clinical experience includes working with diverse clients in a community mental health center providing cognitive-behavioral and psychodynamic psychotherapy in English and in Spanish.
Liliana will be working under my supervision and is available to work with adult and adolescent clients with eating disorders, anxiety, and depression. She will provide services in English and Spanish as well as her native Portuguese and will be able to provide some low-cost therapy to those in need.
If you are interested in more information, please visit Liliana’s website or contact me at 323-282-3572 or email@example.com
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