Weight Bias and Anti-Fat Attitudes: Sources, Impacts, and Prevention Methods

By Annette E. Chalker
2014, Vol. 6 No. 10 | pg. 3/3 |

Conclusion and Recommendations

Weight bias is a prevalent type of prejudice that targets individuals who are overweight or obese. The act of engaging in such bias can stem from an individual’s antifat attitudes. Acting upon such biases can be hurtful, in both psychological and physical regards, for targeted individuals.

The studied sources of weight bias include within health care settings, college admissions processes, and workplace settings (Schwartz, Chambliss, Brownell, Blair, & Billington, 2003; Canning and Mayer, 1966; Pingitore, Dugoni, Tindale, & Spring, 1994). The explanation for weight bias in these sources is that the individuals who populate these settings often act upon weight-based stereotypes. Such stereotypes include beliefs that obesity is related to characteristics such as laziness, worthlessness, and stupidity (Schwartz, Chambliss, Brownell, Blair, & Billington, 2003). These assignments of such characteristics to overweight and obese individuals can sometimes overtly or subtly alter a professional’s behavior by allowing the professional to believe that the characteristic assignment is true (Schwartz, Chambliss, Bronwell, Blair, & Billington, 2003; Burmeister, Kiefner, Carels, & Musher-Eizenman, 2012; Rothblum, Brand, Miller, & Oetjen, 1990).

There have been documented consequences of weight bias for afflicted overweight and obese individuals. These consequences can be both psychological and physical in nature. The psychological effects of weight bias can include depression and body dissatisfaction (Puhl & Heuer, 2009). Depression and body dissatisfaction can occur due to the fact that these individuals must be subjected to the stigmatization and resulting actions of weight bias sources. The physical effects of weight bias can include changes in eating behavior and physical activity (Puhl & Heuer, 2009). Changes in these behaviors can also result from being subjected to stigmatization and the behaviors of the weight bias sources. The resulting effects of weight bias, both physical and psychological, can be detrimental to the affected individual because of the problems that could stem from these effects, such as binge eating behaviors or ceasing physical activity.

It is important to be aware of weight bias reduction methods in order to create an environment in which all types of body sizes are accepted. These methods can include educational tactics and publicized interventions. The purpose of educational tactics is to enlighten individuals from common weight biased sources about different aspects of obesity. The idea behind this reduction method is that when people know more about a particular issue they can make more informed decisions and choices afterwards. This idea suggests that once individuals know more about obesity, they will be less likely to engage in weight biases (intentionally or otherwise). The purpose of using publicized interventions is to promote the images of individuals of varying body sizes in magazine advertisements and television shows. This type of reduction method works to make individuals with body sizes classified as overweight or obese feel more widely accepted by the broader society, which can help create more accepting environments (Puhl, Moss-Racusin, Schwartz, and Brownell, 2008).


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