The Health Costs of Weight Stigma
Monday, October 30, 2017
Distinguished Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of California, Santa Barbara
America’s war on the “obesity epidemic” is intensifying stigmatization of people with heavy and obese bodies. Many lay individuals and health professionals believe that “a little stigma is a good thing’ – i.e. that stigmatizing carrying excess weight motivates people to engage in healthier eating habits and promotes weight loss. I will review a growing body of research showing that this strategy is not only ineffective, but is backfiring. Experiencing or anticipating being stigmatized based on one’s weight increases physiological stress, undermines self-regulation, compromises psychological health, and increases motivations to avoid stigma and escape stigma that have negative health implications. Furthermore, experiencing weight-based stigma leads to weight gain and poorer physical health outcomes, controlling for actual body weight.
Why Stigmatizing People Who Are Overweight is Unhealthy