Weight stigma refers to the negative encounters an individual may experience because of their weight which can take many forms such as weight teasing, bullying, social isolation, and the internalisation of negative weight based stereotypes present in society. Research work conducted within the Body Image, Eating and Weight Research Team (BEWT) explores the nature and impact of weight stigma on health and well-being. If you are interested to know more about this research work, please click the links below to see what my team and myself have been working on!
This paper explores the evidence for the relationships between weight-stigma and biopsychosocial outcomes. We found that weight-stigma was related to a range of biological (e.g., high BMI), psychological (e.g., increased depression, lowered self-esteem) and social (e.g., reduced social support) health outcomes.
Our work also demonstrated that these relationships may be strengthened once weight-stigma is internalized by the individual affected. In other words, an individual who considers negative weight-related stereotypes to be true of themselves, as well as begin to accept negative mistreatment directed towards them because of their weight, may experience worse health outcomes, relative to individuals who experience weight-stigma (i.e., those who do not place high importance on weight stereotypes towards oneself).
This paper explores the current psychometric evidence of available weight stigma measures. Our review highlights that there are no measures currently available which have good content validity, which may explain the lack of additional psychometric evidence for other properties (e.g., cross-cultural validity, criterion validity).
Thus, highlighting the need for a new and improved measure of weight stigma from the "ground up" to ensure that the content of items are reflecting the nature of the construct in its entirety. This work was presented at the Weight Stigma Conference in Canada. We are currently working on developing a new weight stigma measure to fill these gaps. Stay tuned!
On the side...
We also have unpublished work demonstrating that weight-stigma plays a mediating role between BMI and bipsychosocial health outcomes. Specifically, this work suggests that the experience of weight-stigma, beyond the contribution of weight alone, may be contributing to negative biological (e.g., high blood pressure), psychological (e.g., eating disorder psychopathology), and social (e.g., reduced social relationship quality) outcomes. There is other published work in the literature demonstrating this relationship. This finding is important as it challenges obesity research that documents a direct BMI-biopsychosocial relationship, and highlights that the way someone is treated regarding their weight, as opposed to weight alone, plays an important role in influencing health outcomes. This work was presented at the ANZAED eating disorder conference, Sydney.
Weight Stigma conference, London, Ontario, Canada