obesity stigmas, obesity, health perceptions, bias, stigma


Obesity stigmas have led to an increased interest in the body-positivity movement in recent years. However, despite the decreasing discrimination and shaming of the obese, many people still consciously and unconsciously adhere to obesity stigmas and myths. These false beliefs are harmful not only to obese individuals but also to society, given that over 1/3 of the U.S. adult population is now obese (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017). These stigmas can be especially harmful to obese individuals who are victims of wrongdoings and to obese individuals who are accused of a wrongdoing (Yamawaki, Riley, Rasmussen, & Cook, 2018). Much like the concept of “guilt by association,” the assumption of “guilt by obesity” ascribes guilt to someone not because of any evidence but because of their weight alone. Moreover, people who adhere to obesity stigmas often see obese individuals as being less trustworthy, having less self-control, and having less self-esteem than their thinner counterparts, but the literature does not support these views (Joslyn & Hyder-Markel, 2019). Obesity has many causes, including environmental, psychological, and genetic components (Joslyn & Hyder-Markel, 2019); thus, obesity stigmas are not an accurate depiction of every obese individual’s experience. Future research should be conducted on how to promote weight equality in the media and in social policy.

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