Weight bias is a common form of prejudice against people who are viewed as having excess weight. Some individuals who struggle with weight may internalize the stigma directed toward them, blaming and devaluing themselves because of their weight. While it’s known that weight “self-stigma” is associated with poor mental and physical health, it isn’t clear who is most prone to this internalization.
In a new study published in Obesity Science and Practice, researchers at Penn Medicine and the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity surveyed more than 18,000 adults enrolled in the commercial weight management program WW International (formerly Weight Watchers Inc.), and found that participants who internalized weight bias the most tended to be younger, female, have a higher body mass index (BMI), and have an earlier onset of their weight struggle. Participants who were black or had a romantic partner had lower levels of internalization.
“We don’t yet know why some people who struggle with their weight internalize society’s stigma and others do not,” says the study’s lead author Rebecca Pearl, an assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine. “These findings represent a first step toward helping us identify, among people trying to manage their weight, who may be most likely to self-stigmatize. People who are trying to lose weight may be among the most vulnerable to weight self-stigma, but this issue is rarely discussed in treatment settings.”
Read more at Penn Medicine News.