Article

Primum Non Nocere: Obesity Stigma and Public Health

School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, 2052, Australia, .
Journal of Bioethical Inquiry (Impact Factor: 0.71). 01/2013; 10(1). DOI: 10.1007/s11673-012-9412-9
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Several recent anti-obesity campaigns appear to embrace stigmatization of obese individuals as a public health strategy. These approaches seem to be based on the fundamental assumptions that (1) obesity is largely under an individual's control and (2) stigmatizing obese individuals will motivate them to change their behavior and will also result in successful behavior change. The empirical evidence does not support these assumptions: Although body weight is, to some degree, under individuals' personal control, there are a range of biopsychosocial barriers that make weight regulation difficult. Furthermore, there is accumulating evidence that stigmatizing obese individuals decreases their motivation to diet, exercise, and lose weight. Public health campaigns should focus on facilitating behavioral change, rather than stigmatizing obese people, and should be grounded in the available empirical evidence. Fundamentally, these campaigns should, first, do no harm.

Download full-text

Full-text

Available from: Lenny R Vartanian, Jan 20, 2015
1 Follower
 · 
107 Views
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: The high prevalence of obesity and its associated illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes, has sparked interest in finding ways to encourage consumers to make healthier food choices. At the public level, providing information about why and how to choose a healthy diet has been the typical approach to encouraging behavioral change. Information can also influence food producers and marketers to develop and promote more healthful products, creating an environment in which it is easier for consumers to make healthier dietary choices. Nevertheless, information may not always be effective in improving food choices. One explanation is that nutrition information is complex and difficult to convey in a clear, actionable manner. Also, knowledge, while necessary, may not be sufficient to motivate behavior change. Even when consumers understand nutrition information, competing preferences for tastier, less expensive, or more convenient foods may lead them to make other choices. Findings from psychology, marketing, and behavioral economics research suggest approaches that may enhance the effectiveness of informational approaches and complement informational efforts. More research is needed to further develop these strategies and evaluate their effectiveness.
    Psychology and Marketing 05/2015; 32(5). DOI:10.1002/mar.20795 · 1.13 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Much research focuses on the formation of antifat attitudes, but an understanding of antifat bias is incomplete without incorporating self-perceptions. We tested a model in which self-perceptions influenced stereotyping of the same target shown as obese versus thin via antifat attitudes. Participants rated six targets, two of which were the same individual before and after weight loss. Questionnaires assessed participants’ self-perceptions and antifat bias. Multiple group path analysis indicated participants’ body mass index positively predicted greater perceived body size in men and women, though the relationship was stronger for women. Greater perceived body size predicted decreased antifat attitudes, while greater body shame and beliefs about personal control predicted increased antifat attitudes. Antifat attitudes predicted greater negative stereotyping of the target when shown as obese relative to thin. These findings point toward the importance of self-perception in the stigmatization of others and the need to include self-acceptance in weight-bias interventions.
    05/2015; DOI:10.1177/1948550615585831
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Prevalence of overweight in children has increased significantly in many countries in the past decades. Few parents identify their own children as overweight, especially very young children. Motivating parents is difficult, and interventions to attain normal weight often fail. To explore parents' views and experiences when health professionals identify their preschool child as overweight. In-depth interviews were held with parents of 10 overweight children aged 2.5-5.5 years. Parents were recruited at well child clinics in rural parts of eastern Norway. Interviews were recorded digitally, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically. Parents presented themselves and their toddlers as vulnerable. To protect their child from developing low self-esteem and eating disorders, some parents preferred their child not to be present when discussing overweight. Growth charts were looked upon as objective and useful. Parents talked readily about their own weight experiences. Being overweight themselves represented both a barrier to, and motivation for, dealing with their toddler's overweight. Parents appreciated support from professionals in kindergarten, but grandparents often undermined the parents' effort to make changes. Early childhood overweight should be addressed in a sensitive and respectful manner and should consider whether the index child should be present during discussion. It may be helpful for clinicians to discuss parents' own weight and dieting experiences and concerns about eating disorders. All the child's caretakers should be considered a target for intervention, and grandparents and kindergarten professionals should be included.
    Family Practice 10/2013; 30(6). DOI:10.1093/fampra/cmt056 · 1.84 Impact Factor