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Yes, We Can (No, You Can’t): Weight Stigma, Exercise Self-Efficacy, and Active Fat Identity Development

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An inverse relationship has been observed between body mass index and physical activity levels. In the present article, we draw from a range of literatures to construct a novel, theoretical dual-pathway model that identifies direct and indirect impacts of societal weight stigma on exercise behavior. The direct pathway operates via experiences or threat of stigma and discrimination, which create traumatic learning experiences and impair the development of exercise self-efficacy. The indirect pathway impedes engagement in physical activity due to the absence of positive representations of fat exercisers, and a glut of negative representations, resulting from societal anti-fat attitudes. Thus, fat people lack role models from whom they may develop vicarious self-efficacy. Low self-efficacy, in turn, hinders the development of active fat identities. We review the existing literature for evidence supporting such a model, identify directions for future research, and briefly consider the implications of this framework for public health and policy aims.
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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in
Fat Studies on 3 Dec, 2018, available online:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/21604851.2019.1550303
Yes, We Can (No, You Can’t): Weight Stigma, Exercise Self-Efficacy, and Active
Fat Identity Development
Angela Meadows & Andrea E Bombak
Title: Yes, we can (No, you can’t): Weight stigma, exercise self-efficacy, and active-fat
identity development
Authors: Angela Meadows1 and Andrea E Bombak2
Affiliations:
1. School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK
2. Department of Sociology, University of New Brunswick, PO Box 4400, Fredericton, New
Brunswick, Canada, E3B 5A3
Email:
AM: drameadows@gmail.com (corresponding author)
AEB: andrea.bombak@unb.ca
Abstract
An inverse relationship has been observed between body mass index and physical activity
levels.
1
In the present paper, we draw from a range of literatures to construct a novel,
theoretical dual-pathway model that identifies direct and indirect impacts of societal weight
stigma on exercise behavior. The direct pathway operates via experiences or threat of stigma
and discrimination, which create traumatic learning experiences and impair the development
of exercise self-efficacy. The indirect pathway impedes engagement in physical activity due
to the absence of positive representations of fat exercisers, and a glut of negative
representations, resulting from societal anti-fat attitudes. Thus, fat people lack role models
from whom they may develop vicarious self-efficacy. Low self-efficacy, in turn, hinders the
development of active fat identities. We review the existing literature for evidence supporting
such a model, identify directions for future research, and briefly consider the implications of
this framework for public health and policy aims.
1
The focus of this paper is on how weight stigma, specifically, impacts on self-efficacy and active identity
development. As such, we have written predominantly about fat people and their exercise behavior. This is not
to suggest that exercise is something that thin people do and fat people don’t, that fat people’s exercise behavior
should be unilaterally targeted in public health policies and health promotion campaigns, or that fat people (or
anyone else) are under any obligation to engage in leisure time physical activity.
Introduction
Higher-weight individuals report experiencing weight stigma in practically every domain of
daily living, including at work, in education, healthcare, and interpersonal relationships (Puhl
& King, 2013). Experience of weight stigma has been linked to avoidance of exercise and
reduced exercise intentions in higher-weight adults (Schvey et al., 2016; Vartanian & Novak,
2011; Vartanian, Pinkus, & Smyth, 2016; Vartanian & Shaprow, 2008) and children (for a
review, see Salvy, de la Haye, Bowker, & Hermans, 2012), and to less frequent engagement
in moderate or strenuous exercise in both higher-weight student (Vartanian & Shaprow,
2008)
2
and community (Jackson & Steptoe, 2017; Vartanian & Novak, 2011) samples.
3
Surprisingly little work has been done to elucidate the mechanisms by which weight stigma
influences physical activity levels in higher-weight individuals. In the present paper, we draw
on insights from self-determination theory, role model theory, and identity theory to devise a
novel, dual-pathway model that links endemic weight stigma with reduced physical activity
via impaired development of exercise self-efficacy and active fat identities. We first consider
the direct impacts of experienced weight stigma on exercise experience, perceived
competence and the development of active fat identity. Secondly, we describe how societal
anti-fat attitudes in general are both manifested and perpetuated via the absence of positive
representations of fat exercisers, and how lack of representation directly and indirectly
impacts on exercise self-efficacy and active identities. We conclude by briefly discussing the
limitations of this model, directions for future research, and potential public health and policy
implications.
2
This study involved a weight-diverse sample (N = 100). Analyses for the subset of participants with a BMI
25 kg/m2 (n = 25) indicated much stronger associations between weight stigma and exercise variables compared
with lower-weight participants.
3
Experienced weight stigma was linked with increased exercise levels in a study of 177 higher-weight women
(Pearl, Puhl, & Dovidio, 2015); however, the measure of experienced stigma in this study comprised only three
broad yes-no items and may not be sensitive enough to capture true levels of stigma experiences, particularly
more subtle and insidious occurrences (Meadows & Higgs, manuscript in preparation).
Exercise self-efficacy and exercise identity
Perceived self-efficacy can be defined as an individual’s beliefs in their ability to achieve
outcomes of interest, and as such, influences, among other things, what behaviors we engage
in, how much effort we invest, the extent of our perseverance in the face of barriers or
hardship, and our actual levels of achievement (Bandura, 1997). Exercise self-efficacy is one
of the most robust psychosocial predictors of engagement in physical activity (Bauman et al.,
2012; S. L. Williams & French, 2011) and has been both cross-sectionally and prospectively
linked with adoption and maintenance of physical activity (McAuley & Blissmer, 2000).
However, within the field of health promotion, much of the work on exercise self-efficacy is
framed in terms of self-regulatory capacity that is, one’s perceived ability to engage in a
behavior when faced with certain barriers and challenges, such as time constraints, bad
weather, or family commitments (D. M. Williams & Rhodes, 2016). This focus situates non-
participation at the level of personal failings or weaknesses, an approach to health promotion
that tends toward victim-blaming (Crawford, 1977; McLeroy, Bibeau, Steckler, & Glanz,
1988). It also presupposes an underlying a priori desire to participate in physical activity, and
does nothing to address the case where individuals may prefer not to engage in the first place.
Here, we instead focus on a different aspect of exercise self-efficacy that of task
competence. We propose that both overt and implicit anti-fat attitudes reduce perceived
exercise competence in higher-weight individuals. Awareness and personal experiences of
societal weight stigma have been linked with reduced physical activity competence in
individuals participating in a weight-loss program, and appeared to explain the negative
relationship between BMI and perceived physical activity abilities (Schmalz, 2010). We
suggest two potential mechanistic pathways through which weight stigma lowers exercise
self-efficacy: first, via fat people’s own experiences in the physical activity environment, and
second, via the erasure of positive representations of fat exercise and fat exercisers within the
physical activity environment for fat people to look to as possible selves and inspirational
role models in the domain of exercise. We further argue that this form of low exercise self-
efficacy hinders the development of active-fat identities (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Proposed dual-pathway relationship between weight stigma and physical activity, via impact on exercise self-
efficacy and exercise identity. Solid lines represent positive relationships and dashed lines negative relationships.
An individuals’ self-schema comprises a collection of generalized identities across a range of
domains, each representing one aspect of the self by which we understand who we are. Our
self-schema act as a lens through which we interpret our experiences and the world around
us, but also influence how we interact with the world and behave in a given situation
(Markus, 1977). Different aspects of our self-schema will be more relevant in different
situations, and identity theory posits that the greater the salience of a given identity compared
with other self-categorizations, the more likely behavioral choices will be made in line with
that identity (Stryker & Burke, 2000). People prefer to act in ways that are congruent with
their identities (Stets & Burke, 2000): an action that is congruent with a situationally relevant
identity may be pursued even in the face of difficulty such difficulties may even reinforce
the importance of that behavior for an individual’s self-concept, whereas the same difficulties
encountered during identity-incongruent behavior is likely to reinforce dis-identification with
the domain (Oyserman, 2015). Indeed, perceived ability has been linked with exercise
identity in both cross-sectional and prospective studies, and a strong exercise identity is, in
turn, linked to more frequent exercise, greater future exercise intentions, and perseverance in
the face of barriers to exercise (for a review, see Rhodes, Kaushal, & Quinlan, 2016).
Pathway 1: Weight stigma and the experience of fat exercisers
Explicit and implicit stigma
The primary means by which self-efficacy is developed is via prior achievement.
Successfully engaging in an activity increases an individual’s belief that they can do so again
(Bandura, 1986). In contrast, repeated lack of success despite effort can result in learned
helplessness a phenomenon wherein people learn that no matter how hard they try, they
will not succeed, which, unsurprisingly, often results in disengagement from that activity
(Maier & Seligman, 1976). In the absence of perceived ability to achieve a desired outcome,
individuals may have little motivation to engage in an activity (Bandura, 1997).
4
From an
early age, fat people’s experiences of formal exercise may be more likely to resemble this
second pattern of learning. Qualitative studies among adolescents about their experiences
during physical education (PE) classes, report frequent experiences of weight related name-
calling and bullying, being mocked for their perceived or actual lack of skill, and being
laughed at if they fall or are injured, often with implicit or overt acceptance of such behavior
by teachers (W. Li & Rukavina, 2012; Trout & Graber, 2009). Weight-related victimization
in PE classes is associated with lower perceived physical abilities among higher-weight
adolescents, with greater fear of being stigmatized, and with reduced engagement in physical
activity outside the school environment (Maïano et al., 2018). PE teachers often hold
4
Although it is possible that, in some circumstances, an individual may be motivated to try something that they
currently think they are unable to do, in the present context, we refer to the situation where repeated efforts have
resulted in consistently negative outcomes, as described below.
stereotypical negative attitudes toward fat students, expect them to be less fit and healthy than
slimmer students, and have lower performance expectations for them (Greenleaf & Weiller,
2005), especially for female students (Peterson, Puhl, & Luedicke, 2012). Thus, the
intersection of gender and weight compounds the gender-stereotype inequalities already
faced by girls in sports environments (Chalabaev, Sarrazin, Fontayne, Boiché, & Clément-
Guillotin, 2013). These negative assumptions and stereotypical beliefs may well become self-
fulfilling as fat youngsters are implicitly and explicitly taught that their bodies exclude them
from enjoyable and profitable engagement in exercise and sport, and consequently exhibit
reduced self-efficacy and engage less frequently in physical activity (Rice, 2007). These early
experiences may have long-lasting effects. In-depth interviews with adults about their
recollections of school PE classes suggest that, for many, “fat phobia created extremely
difficult situations that demanded constant psychic/emotional work, provided pitiful
opportunities for learning, and numerous alienating and traumatic movement experiences”
(Sykes & McPhail, 2008, p. 68).
The confluence of physical activity with weight-stigmatizing experiences does not end at
graduation. Fitness center employees, including management, reception staff, and fitness
professionals, have been shown to hold negative implicit anti-fat attitudes, despite
considering themselves to be unbiased (Dimmock, Hallett, & Grove, 2009). Witnessing fat
people exercising, that is, engaging in counter-stereotypical behavior, did not ablate these
attitudes. Other studies have demonstrated both strong implicit and explicit anti-fat bias in
current (Robertson & Vohora, 2008) and future fitness professionals (Chambliss, Finley, &
Blair, 2004). Some gyms mock fat people in their advertising (AdWeek, 2010; S. Murphy,
2017; Schlossberg, 2016), and it is not unusual for class instructors to openly stigmatize fat
bodies and use them as a fear-based “motivator” for class participants (Kenen, 1987; Packer,
1989). Other gym members may be another source of weight stigma. In a large UK sample,
frequent exercisers exhibited more explicit anti-fat attitudes in general (Flint et al., 2015), and
in a small qualitative study, focus groups conducted in regular gym-goers demonstrated that
these attitudes were not limited to those fat people who were considered to demonstrate
negative stereotypes of laziness, but extended to fat exercisers, both within a formal gym
setting and those exercising in outdoor settings, with numerous examples of bullying,
harassment, discrimination, and dehumanization recorded (Flint & Reale, 2016). Indeed,
strangers are one of the most common sources of stigma, and being stigmatised in public,
even in the presence of bystanders, is not unusual (Vartanian, Pinkus, & Smyth, 2014). Fat
people report being stared at, photographed, verbally and physically abused by strangers, or
otherwise stigmatized (Puhl & Brownell, 2006), including while exercising (Bombak, 2015;
Ellison, 2009; S. Lewis et al., 2011).
Even in the absence of a stigmatizing incident, most fat people are acutely aware of the
stereotypes that others hold towards them and their devalued status in society (Degher &
Hughes, 1999; Kwan, 2010). This culturally shared knowledge imbues daily life with what
Link and colleagues termed “symbolic interaction stigma” (Link, Wells, Phelan, & Yang,
2015, p. 118), where much psychic effort is devoted to fear, expectation, or anticipation of
others’ reactions, and mental rehearsals of how one would respond if such an interaction did
arise. That is, living as a fat person in a fat-phobic society can lead to feeling stigmatized
even in the absence of overt stigma experiences. Fear of weight-related stigma or anxiety
about others’ weight-based judgments has been shown to be a more potent driver of some
psychological outcomes and health-related behaviors than weight-related self-devaluation per
se (Lillis, Thomas, Levin, & Wing, 2017; Meadows & Higgs, manuscript in preparation). In
one qualitative study, a large proportion of higher-weight participants mentioned,
unprompted, the impact of direct, indirect, and structural stigma on their desire to exercise in
public, and describe their hypervisibility and expectations of ridicule and abuse (S. Lewis et
al., 2011). Even purportedly well-meaning commentary, either in person or on social media,
tends to carry patronizing assumptions about fat people’s motivation for exercise (to lose
weight) and lack of experience and fitness, reinforcing the point that fat bodies are observed,
judged, and somehow considered public property (Chastain, 2014b). Fat exercisers are
deprived of agentic motives. Instead, these exercisers are presumed to be recognizing their
culpability in a fat-phobic culture and trying to atone by taking responsibility for fixing their
burdensome bodies (Monaghan, 2008; Rauscher, Kauer, & Wilson, 2013).
Stereotype threat
Stereotype threat provides another potential barrier to physical activity in fat individuals.
Stereotype threat occurs when a person is in a situation where their behavior is likely to be
judged along stereotyped lines, and they risk reinforcing negative stereotypes about a group
to which they belong (Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002). Engaging in physical activity, by
definition, will produce a physiological response that is likely to include outward signs of
exertion: breathing hard, sweating, flushed face (not to mention a certain amount of
‘bouncing and jiggling’). While these signs are a normal response to a body working hard, it
is a commonplace that they would be associated with the stereotype of lack of fitness in a fat
person (Danielsen, Sundgot-Borgen, & Rugseth, 2016; Sykes & McPhail, 2008). Thus, for
the fat exerciser, simply being observed in the practice of exercising risks confirming the
stereotype that fat people are lazy, inactive, and unhealthy (Bombak, 2015; Puhl, Schwartz,
& Brownell, 2005), with anti-fat attitudes giving rise to the double standard whereby sweaty
thin people are admirable but sweaty fat people are disdained (Flint & Reale, 2016; Zimdars,
2015).
So powerful is the link between a stereotyped identity and attitudes and behaviours in a
stereotype-relevant situation, that activation of a fat identity can induce a threat effect in an
exercise context even when the individual would not be observed exercising. One
experimental study, conducted over the telephone, found that simply asking overweight
women who were already frequent exercisers to give their weight after hearing about a sham
study regarding healthy habits versus health outcomes, thus making their weight salient in a
health context, resulted in reduced exercise (and diet) self-efficacy, which in turn was
associated with lower intentions to engage in exercise, compared with women who were not
asked to provide information about their weight (Seacat & Mickelson, 2009). A Singaporean
study of 140 higher-weight youngsters enrolled in a school-based weight-management
program that used a videogame-based exercise paradigm, found that those in an
experimentally manipulated stereotype threat condition reported more negative attitudes
toward exercise, lower exercise motivation in general, and even lower motivation to engage
in future exergaming activities after completing the running game than those in a non-threat
condition (B. J. Li, Lwin, & Jung, 2014).
Pathway 2: Weight stigma and the erasure of fat exercisers
Active fat role models
Self-efficacy may also be developed via vicarious experience that is, seeing other people
with whom you can identify engaging in or succeeding at a task (Bandura, 1986). In general,
personal mastery experiences are a more prominent source of self-efficacy than are vicarious
experiences; however, a meta-analysis of studies of physical activity self-efficacy
development found that interventions based upon vicarious experience, including both real-
world and virtual representations of similar others, were more effective at increasing self-
efficacy than many traditionally used approaches (Ashford, Edmunds, & French, 2010).
Until very recently, positive representations of fat exercisers were conspicuous by their
absence. Images of exercisers used in magazines, gyms, and on social media usually display
mesomorphic body types with minimal visible body fat and a high degree of muscularity
(Garvin & Damson, 2008; Kenen, 1987) and content may overtly demonize fat bodies
(Dworkin & Wachs, 2009). When fat people are depicted exercising, the images are often
unflattering at best, and frequently derisory or stigmatizing (e.g., Boe, n.d.; Holloway, n.d.).
Fat people’s exercise behavior is represented as punitive in nature, and serving the sole
purpose of rendering their bodies slimmer and more acceptable (Mocarski & Bissell, 2016;
Sender & Sullivan, 2008). More commonly, representations of fat people in news,
entertainment, and social media are likely to show fat people engaged in sedentary behavior
(Ata & Thompson, 2010; Heuer, McClure, & Puhl, 2011; Puhl, Peterson, DePierre, &
Luedicke, 2013; Yoo & Kim, 2012). These divergent representations reinforce the notion that
only slim bodies are suited to exercise, and that exercise and fatness are incompatible
(Tiggemann & Zaccardo, 2015). Exercising fat bodies are non-normalized and are rendered
intrinsically dis-abled and dys-functional (Mansfield & Rich, 2013).
In addition to reinforcing negative stereotypes about fat bodies, this disparity in
representation serves to deprive fat people of potential active fat role models. Role models
function as representations of the possible; seeing somebody “like us” engaging in an activity
helps us to see ourselves in that context (Morgenroth, Ryan, & Peters, 2015). Possible selves
being able to imagine a future self that is different from our current self occur at the
intersection of social cognition, identity, and motivation, and can moderate both who we are
and who we become (Erikson, 2007; Markus & Nurius, 1986). To our knowledge, no
research has addressed the effects of having few positive represenations of fat exercisers.
However, evidence from the wider role-modeling literature supports a negative impact on
self-efficacy and domain identification in under-represented groups (for reviews, see
Dasgupta, 2011; Morgenroth et al., 2015). While these findings remain to be replicated in the
context of fat exercisers, anecdotal evidence suggests that viewing similar fat others simply
engaging in and enjoying active pursuits could serve to counter prevailing stereotypes and
produce a shift in how a non-active fat person views physicality as an option for their own
bodies. For example, a recent UK news story with an image of 41-year old Dawn Nisbet
crossing the finish line in her first parkrun
5
, hot, sweaty, fat, in last place, and with a look of
sheer exhilaration on her face, went viral worldwide and has encouraged hundreds of people
to take up running (Butler, 2017).
Some progress in representation of fat exercisers has occurred in recent years, thanks in large
part to social media, as plus-sized athletic role models in a range of sports and active leisure
pursuits become more well-known (Macadaeg, 2016; Torres, 2016). Yet even as a number of
positive fat role-models emerge, there is a danger that while celebrating fat bodies who
embody the ultimate physical achievement may be inspirational and challenge dominant
negative stereotypes about fat bodies, limiting representation of fat exercisers to only these
ultimate-achievers may create a superhero narrative that could alienate those whose
physicality is unlikely to ever reach such peaks (Fenson, 2017). Indeed, attainable exemplars
appear to be more effective role models than exceptional ones, who may lead to resentment,
feelings of inadequacy, and disengagement from the domain for self-preservation of one’s
self-worth (Han, Kim, Jeong, & Cohen, 2017; Hoyt & Simon, 2011; Lockwood & Kunda,
1997).
Normative erasure
The erasure of fat exercisers occurs not only through the prevailing invisibility of fat role
models, but also via the erasure of fat exercise as a concept in general. Manifestations of
societal anti-fat attitudes create structural barriers for fat exercisers. whether by ommission
for example, assuming that fat people will not be participating in triathlons and thus
5
parkrun events are free, weekly, 5km timed runs, open to people of any ability.
neglecting to make wetsuits in larger sizes (Chastain, 2014a) or through the lack of
appropriate exercise equipment and clothing for larger bodies (Christel, O’Donnell, &
Bradley, 2016; Greenleaf, Pozolinski, & Kauffung, 2015); or by commission such as when
fitness-wear companies choose to distance their brand from the ‘taint’ of fatness by refusing
to offer their lines in larger sizes or to market them appropriately when they are available
(Marks, 2013). These exclusions serve to label fat exercise as non-normative (S. T. Lewis &
Van Puymbroeck, 2008), reinforcing the perceived disconnect between fatness and an active
identity. Thus, the hegemonic view of active persons as necessarily thin means there is a lack
of relevant cultural signs or ergonomically-suitable activity available to fat persons interested
in activity (Wathne, 2011).
Further, under-representation of a marginalized group within a particular domain may also
increase the risk of stereotype threat (Cheryan, Plaut, Davies, & Steele, 2009; M. C. Murphy,
Steele, & Gross, 2007; Sekaquaptewa & Thompson, 2002, 2003). Thus, these multiple
erasures of fat exercise and fat exercisers increase the salience of fatness in an exercising
context (Dunlop & Schmader, 2014), which further impedes the development of active
identities among fat individuals.
Limitations, future directions, and policy implications
A number of limitations of the proposed model should be noted. First, the model is founded
on a theoretical synthesis of a number of diverse literatures and a considerable amount of
anecdotal evidence. In the first instance, therefore, it will be necessary to provide empirical
evidence of its validity in the context of physical activity behavior among higher-weight
individuals. Additionally, the majority of research on experienced weight stigma and physical
activity that underpins the development of this model has been conducted in White women,
and it is unclear whether the same mechanisms would operate in other racial or ethnic groups
or in men. Differences in the prevalence and response to weight stigma have been reported
across different racial and ethnic groups (Himmelstein, Puhl, Quinn, & Gorber, 2017;
Meadows & Calogero, 2018). Most forms of weight stigma also occur more frequently in
women, and are prevalent at lower body weights than in men (Andreyeva et al., 2008;
Hatzenbuehler, Keyes, & Hasin, 2009). To date, only one small study with similar
proportions of male and female participant has assessed whether gender influences the impact
of weight stigma on exercise behavior. An Australian study using an ecological experience
sampling technique in 46 higher-weight adults found that in women, but in men, incidents of
weight stigma were associated with reduced positive affect, which in turn predicted lower
motivation to exercise (Vartanian et al., 2016). It is therefore unclear whether gender
moderates the relationship between weight stigma and physical activity outcomes, beyond
that accounted for by the volume of stigma experiences. A consideration of the intersectional
nature of stigma and its relationship with exercise outcomes is beyond the scope of this paper
but is something that should be considered in future studies.
Finally, while the proposed model provides a framework on which future research can be
built, it is not intended to fully elucidate all intermediary mechanisms. For example,
emerging evidence identifies internalized weight stigma as a predictor of exercise enjoyment,
self-efficacy, motivation, and engagement, and a mediator of the relationship between
experienced stigma and physical activity outcomes (Mensinger & Meadows, 2017; Pearl,
Puhl, & Dovidio, 2015). Future development of the model may provide additional targets for
health promotion interventions.
If the theoretical predictions of the model are empirically substantiated, this framework has
implications for public health and education policy. Under current governmental anti-obesity
policies, PE becomes an instrument to deliver policy-mandated ‘solutions’ to the ‘obesity
epidemic, and success defined in terms of body size rather than fitness, mastery, enjoyment,
or encouragement of physical activity outside of the school environment (Cale & Harris,
2013). Indeed, rather than improving the health of students, these policies promote exclusion
and further entrench prejudicial attitudes (J. Evans & Rich, 2011; O’Dea, 2005). In contrast,
being introduced to alternative ways of understanding fat, wellbeing, movement, and health
outside the boundaries of the ‘obesity as usual’ curriculum (Norman & Petherick, 2016, p.
94) would create more opportunities for positive exercise identities to develop among
children of all sizes. Fat pedagogy is gaining traction (Cameron & Russell, 2016), albeit
slowly, and this movement would be strengthened by availability of data supporting a size-
neutral approach as a means of achieving desired physical activity outcomes.
Within adult physical activity environments,
6
Pickett and Cunningham (2017) describe a
model for developing body-inclusive physical activity spaces, including cultural and
leadership commitment to inclusivity, inclusive language and physical environments, respect
for personal autonomy in providing participants’ agency in their fitness environments, and
importantly, the creation of community. A space in which social identity is created and
reinforced may be essential for fostering an exercise identity for individuals of all sizes
(Stevens et al., 2017). Identifying strongly with an exercise group can strengthen individual
active identities and increase identity salience (M. B. Evans, McLaren, Budziszewski, &
Gilchrist, 2018; Grant, Hogg, & Crano, 2015). While some authors have suggested that
separate spaces for fat bodies may provide less stressful and more supportive environments
for fat exercisers (e.g., Dunlop & Schmader, 2014; Kemp, 2016; cited in Meadows, 2016),
this approach presupposes reduced ability in fat exercisers, continues to create an ‘us and
them’ dichotomy between those who ‘can’ and those who ‘can’t’, othering fat bodies as non-
normative, and does nothing to address the underlying problems of a shaming, non-inclusive
6
Although most of these considerations would apply equally to physical activity environments for youngsters.
environment in more traditional spaces (Cardinal et al., 2015; D’Abundo, 2009; Watkins,
Ebbeck, & S. Levy, 2014). Progressing a shared identity based on embracing empowered
embodiment, rather than a particular body type or shared body modification goals, may be
one method of fostering inclusivity and group identity. Rather than perpetuating a divergent
‘us and them’ distinction, inclusive spaces foster the creation of a new ‘us.’
This model may also have implications for health promotion efforts. At present, it is not
uncommon for positive representations of successful fat bodies to be accused of promoting
obesity’ (Chastain, 2011; Gilbert, 2015). Validation of this model would provide an evidence
base to refute such claims, and to encourage the use of images of fat individuals partaking in
pleasurable physical activity. However, it should be noted that in the current healthist,
neoliberal climate, physical activity may, for some people, present a means of negotiating a
stigmatized identity by demonstrating normative and responsible behavior (Bombak, 2015).
Thus, it is critical that efforts to promote physical activity among dis-identified fat
individuals should employ representations of fat exercisers not to obligate, or even to inspire,
but primarily to render exercising fat bodies as normative. In the longer term, more diverse
representation in this domain may also effect changes in broader societal attitudes and beliefs
about fatness (Burmeister & Carels, 2015; Dunaev, Brochu, & Markey, 2018; Hinman,
Burmeister, Kiefner, Borushok, & Carels, 2015).
Conclusion
We have argued that weight stigma in its many forms serves to impair perceived exercise
competence in fat people, and hinders the development of active fat identities. This state of
affairs essentially deprives many fat individuals of the numerous potential physical and
psychosocial benefits that may be derived from being physically active. Importantly, both
exercise self-efficacy (McAuley & Blissmer, 2000; S. L. Williams & French, 2011) and
exercise identity (Cardinal & Cardinal, 1997; Carraro & Gaudreau, 2010) are dynamic
constructs that are amenable to change. To the extent that people of any weight, size or shape
wish to engage in physical activity, they should be able to do so in a safe non-stigmatizing
space and in a manner that brings them joy and rejuvenation, not stress and shame. It is
therefore imperative to address the systemic and individual biases that result in some fat
people dis-identifying with the exercise domain entirely.
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... These pathways include (a) traumatic learning experiences that have a direct negative impact on one's exercise self-efficacy, and (b) the absence of positive representations of active fat people, alongside negative representations when such fat people are (rarely) displayed. In this way, weight stigma and its effects make one less likely to engage in physical activity behavior, and more likely to cumulatively experience mental and physical consequences of physical inactivity (Hunger et al., 2015;Meadows & Bombak, 2019). ...
... Though these studies highlight the impact of negative childhood experiences on subsequent psychological outcomes, there appears to be a lack of research regarding the long-term effects of weight stigma on physical activity participation and experiences. Consistent with conceptual models that allude to cumulative exposure effects (Hunger et al., 2015;Meadows & Bombak, 2019), further research is needed to understand the complexity by which early accumulation of weight stigma experienced in physical activity impacts physical activity experiences in adulthood. ...
... Guided by narrative approaches, a semistructured interview guide was used, drawing heavily on open-ended exploratory questions (Supplementary Material [available online]). The interview guide was informed by theoretical frameworks that propose mechanisms in the relationship between weight-based stigma and physical activity experiences (e.g., Hunger et al., 2015;Meadows & Bombak, 2019;Rojas-Sánchez et al., 2021) and findings from a comprehensive scoping review on both qualitative and quantitative research on weight stigma and physical activity (Pila, 2020), while simultaneously maintaining ample flexibility necessary in a narrative approach. Participants were asked to draw upon their physical activity histories during the interview, which, alongside the interview guide, was used to guide the conversation. ...
Article
Scholars have proposed that cumulative experiences of anti-fat bias and stigma contribute to detrimental physical activity experiences, as well as social and health inequities. The objective of this research was to explore how enacted weight stigma experiences are constructed and impact women’s physical activity experiences long term. Eighteen women who identified as having had negative experiences related to their body weight, shape, or size in physical activity contexts participated in semistructured interviews. Using reflexive thematic analysis, four themes were identified: (a) norms of body belonging, (b) distancing from an active identity, (c) at war with the body, and (d) acts of resistance. These findings deepen understandings of how historical experiences of weight stigma can have longstanding consequences on physical activity cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. To equitably promote physical activity, it is imperative that movement spaces (e.g., fitness centers, sport organizations) both target anti-fat stigma and adopt weight-inclusive principles.
... Size inclusion offers an alternative to weight-centric approaches to physical activity (Mansfield & Rich, 2013;Pickett & Cunningham, 2017b;Rich & Mansfield, 2019). Often taking a social justice stance, proponents of size inclusion aim to reduce weight stigma, celebrate diverse body shapes and sizes, and endorse positive representations of people with larger bodies (Calogero et al., 2019;Mansfield & Rich, 2013;Meadows & Bombak, 2019). A related concept is weight neutrality, where focus is moved away from weight and weight loss (Souza, 2015). ...
... In the context of intervention research, participating in weight-neutral healthy living programs was shown to reduce internalized weight bias among women with larger bodies (Mensinger & Meadows, 2017) and improve physical activity levels and depression symptoms (Lou et al., 2014). Still, there is a need to better understand size inclusive physical activity contexts from the perspective of women living with larger bodies (Meadows & Bombak, 2019;Pickett & Cunningham, 2017b;Rich & Mansfield, 2019). ...
... Consistent with our findings, other research has found that stigmatized people who feel like their identities are valued show greater self-integrity and sense of belonging (Cook et al., 2014). Thus, perceptions of size inclusion in physical activity may have a role in mitigating internalized weight stigma, which could influence exercise self-efficacy (Cunningham & Pickett, 2020;Meadows & Bombak, 2019) and long-term participation in physical activity (Huberty et al., 2008). There appeared to be a relationship between life stage, self-perceptions, and physical activity. ...
Article
Purpose: Size inclusive physical activity settings may help mitigate the impact of physical activity-related weight stigma. In this interpretive description study, we aimed to understand how women with larger bodies experienced size inclusive physical activity settings. The study was informed by a settings-based approach to health promotion. Method: We interviewed nine women with larger bodies who participated in size inclusive physical activity and used an inductive approach to analyze the data. Findings: At the individual level, size inclusion was experienced as an enhancement of well-being, self-worth, and belonging. This was closely tied to the interpersonal level, whereby weight-neutral practices used by fitness instructors and lack of judgment from other exercisers contributed to experiences of size inclusion. At the organizational level, the organization's culture, marketing, programs, and physical spaces could enhance or limit inclusion and participation. However, weight stigma was prevalent in women's experiences outside the physical activity setting. Conclusion: We provide recommendations to improve size inclusion in physical activity settings.
... Weight-inclusive content (i.e., positive representations of higher-weight bodies) may likewise be effective in promoting adaptive exercise cognitions and behaviour. Meadows & Bombak (2018) propose the importance of positive representations of fat 1 exercisers for countering the harms of anti-fat bias in exercise contexts. Increased visibility of active fat role models could improve exercise behaviour among individuals whose body types do not align with fitness stereotypes, by opposing prevailing societal beliefs that exercise is only for thin people or for fat people to become thin (Meadows & Bombak, 2018;Vartanian & Shaprow, 2008). ...
... Meadows & Bombak (2018) propose the importance of positive representations of fat 1 exercisers for countering the harms of anti-fat bias in exercise contexts. Increased visibility of active fat role models could improve exercise behaviour among individuals whose body types do not align with fitness stereotypes, by opposing prevailing societal beliefs that exercise is only for thin people or for fat people to become thin (Meadows & Bombak, 2018;Vartanian & Shaprow, 2008). Following this theoretical proposition, exposure to images of higher-weight bodies may be associated with adaptive exercise outcomes. ...
Article
Exposure to “fitspiration” may promote exercising for maladaptive weight and appearance reasons in young women. Fitness content depicting higher-weight bodies could promote exercise for adaptive non-appearance motives, and body compassion might protect against the negative effects of “fitspiration” exposure. Two pre-registered experimental studies examined (i) the effects of exposure to fit-normative vs. weight-inclusive Instagram images on young women’s exercise intentions and motivations, and (ii) tested trait body compassion as a moderator of the relationships between image exposure and psychosocial exercise outcomes. Using an online experimental paradigm, young adult women were randomized to view Instagram images representing fit-normative, weight-inclusive, or control conditions and completed state measures of exercise intention and motivation. Study 1 (n = 228) employed a post-test design and found no significant effects of condition on exercise outcomes, nor an effect of body compassion. Using a pre- and post-experimental design in Study 2 (n = 797), participants in the weight-inclusive condition exhibited significantly greater increases in exercise intention and fitness/health motivation, while those in the fit-normative condition exhibited greater increases in weight/appearance motivation, compared to controls. Body compassion was not a significant moderator of the associations between exposure to weight-inclusive vs. fit-normative images and exercise outcomes. Exposure to fit-normative Instagram content may encourage dysfunctional exercise motives in young women. Weight-inclusive imagery may more effectively inspire adaptive exercise intentions and motivations, and future research should investigate how it may be leveraged to improve psychosocial exercise outcomes.
... Researchers have argued weight stigma is highly prevalent across the physical activity landscape (Meadows & Bombak, 2019;Pickett & Cunningham, 2017), often perpetrated by physical activity-related professionals' anti-fat attitudes (Chambliss et al., 2004;Panza et al., 2018). In fact, scholars argued fitness centers, physical education classes, and other exerciserelated settings are spaces in which fat people experience the highest levels of shame and discrimination (Pickett & Cunningham, 2017). ...
Article
For the 31st Delphine Hanna Lecture, this paper draws parallels between Dr. Delphine Hanna's approach to establishing physical education professional legitimacy in the late 1800s to the field's current quest for social and cultural relevance. Drawing on the concept of precarity, the paper outlines society's current challenges and argues that the physical education field remains disconnected from the lived experiences of young people. In the spirit of hope and purpose, the paper suggests physical education professionals can learn from the innovative and interdisciplinary path Dr. Hanna forged during her trailblazing career. As one potential example of what this approach may look like today, the author highlights the lesson learned from the Weight Inclusive Thinking (WIT) project-an interdisciplinary effort to promote body size diversity across physical activity settings.
... Body-related bullying and harassment episodes(Gerend et al., 2021). • Traumatic and other negative experiences in PA-related spaces such as physical education and fitness centers(Jackson & Steptoe, 2017;Meadows & Bombak, 2019;Pausé, 2019). • Constantly being offered weight loss advice by friends, family members, and coworkers(Himmelstein et al., 2018). ...
Article
Research shows that physical activity (PA)-related professionals perpetuate weight stigma and discrimination in their practices by holding antifat attitudes. Given the adverse outcomes associated with weight stigma and discrimination (including PA avoidance), researchers and fat activists have proposed and implemented a range of strategies to reduce weight stigma and cultivate inclusive PA settings. In this paper, we summarized and organized research-informed strategies for reducing weight stigma and creating weight-inclusive climates in fitness spaces. We adopted a socioecological model to organize a variety of strategies for improving weight inclusivity in fitness spaces at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and structural levels. Ranging from staff training to adjusting the physical space, the strategies proposed in this paper aim at dismantling limited and harmful weight-centric narratives and practices that keep fat individuals marginalized from PA settings.
... Additionally, weight-based stigmatization has been shown to have negative psychosocial outcomes, such as diminished desire to lose weight and decreased self-esteem [19,20]. The dual pathway between weight self-stigma and self-efficacy has been investigated and may direct an individual's beliefs in their ability to function, hindering participation in physical activity [21]. A systematic review revealed that internalization of weight bias was associated with negative mental health outcomes, including self-esteem, depression, and anxiety [22]; this association, therefore, extends to the context of physical activity. ...
Article
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Background: Overweight individuals face weight-related stigmatization, driving self-exclusion from exercise and physical activity. The extent to which weight self-stigma and self-esteem are associated with aerobic capacity remains unclear. Therefore, this study aimed to characterize the cardiopulmonary fitness, weight self-stigma, and self-esteem of overweight women and examine whether weight self-stigma and self-esteem predict cardiopulmonary aerobic capacity. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted with 66 women stratified into two groups: a normal weight (NW) group and an overweight (OW) group. The mean body mass indexes and ages of the NW and OW groups were 20.4 ± 0.36 kg/m2 and 29.5 ± 0.8 kg/m2, and 24 ± 7 years and 21 ± 3 years, respectively. Submaximal exercise testing using the modified Bruce treadmill protocol was conducted to measure the predicted oxygen uptake (VO2 peak) and energy expenditure. The Weight Self-Stigma Questionnaire and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale were used. Results: Significantly lower mean of predicted VO2 peak and higher mean of energy expenditure were reported in the OW group compared with the NW group (25.8 ± 5.3 mL/kg/min vs. 28.7 ± 4.8 mL/kg/min, p = 0.001 and 9.7 ± 1.9 kcal/min vs. 7.5 ± 1.8 kcal, p = 0.03, respectively). There was a significant difference in weight self-stigma and self-esteem between the groups. Regression model analysis indicated that weight self-stigma and self-esteem explained 45% of the variance in the predicted VO2 peak. Conclusion: Strategies enhancing self-esteem and avoiding stigmatization should be embraced to promote fitness and engagement in physical activity among OW women.
... Numerous testimonials from obese persons locate experiences of weight stigma within several physical activity environments. Obese people have reported insults and discrimination in PE classes, gyms, swimming pools, university sports classes, team sports clubs, public sports events, and other populated or exposed areas where is possible to exercise (Meadows and Bombak, 2019;Pearl and Puhl, 2018), often resulting in negative experiences, reduced physical activity, low feelings of competence, increased exercise avoidance and, ultimately, self-exclusion from these activities (Thedinga et al., 2021). ...
Article
Weight stigma is a negative social process that involves discrimination against overweight and obese people. Gyms are important environments to promote exercise where weight stigma can be a hindrance for obese exercise practitioners. This critical-oriented study provides evidence-based answers to this question: How do obese users experience weight stigma in gyms? Six obese gym users (BMI >30) participated in semi-structured interviews and provided visual data for photo-elicitation. A thematic analysis enabled the grouping of their experiences around weight stigma into three forms of discrimination: 1) direct: negative comments about body weight and body size; 2) indirect: internalization of negative stereotypes on weight, ability or appearance; 3) structural: explicit or symbolic rejection related with weight-centric exercise, equipment and recommendations implicit in marketing and advertising. The results provide evidence and interpretations of different forms of discrimination and inequality that operate in gyms, and how they affect obese users’ experiences. Based on these results, we compile a list of measures to prevent weight stigma and recommendations for exercise professionals to relate with obese users.
Article
This study assessed the factor structure of a novel self-report measure of weight- and shape-based social identity threat vulnerability, Social Identities and Attitudes Scale-Weight and Body Shape (SIAS-WBS). Weight and race diverse young adults (N = 542; Mage=21.69 +2.32; 69% ciswomen) were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk and a university participant pool. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, measurement invariance, internal consistency, convergent validity, and test-retest reliability were conducted. The SIAS-WBS had acceptable factor structure with 15 subscales that were invariant across race, ethnicity, gender, weight perception, and CDC-defined weight groups. The measure demonstrated high internal consistency, convergent validity, and good test-retest reliability. Subscales were Weight & Shape Identification (Influence and Centrality), Weight & Shape Stigma Consciousness, six identification and six negative affect factors across the domains of: Social, Familial, Romantic, Intellectual, Physical Activity, and Physical Attractiveness. Participants in higher weight groups who perceived themselves as lower weight status, reported lower Weight & Shape Identification-Influence (p = 0.02) and lower Stigma Consciousness (p = 0.01), relative to those perceiving themselves as higher weight status. Participants perceiving themselves as higher weight status endorsed lower Physical Activity Identification (p < 0.001) and more negative affect across all domains (p’s < 0.02). This suggests that weight misperceivers may be less susceptible to weight-based identity threat.
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Community gardening is increasingly framed and promoted as a way to foster healthful behaviours, as a wellbeing practice, and as a public health tool. This paper draws on semi-structured interviews with community gardening organisers (n = 9) in the North East of England, who were engaged in translating and transforming discourses and ideas about community gardening into places and practices that people can draw benefit from. Here, community gardening can be understood as a bricolage of ideas, resources, and skills at the nexus of several influences and movements, assembled to produce a localised, everyday sort of social change. We conclude that framing community gardening as a simple solution to be harnessed in the promotion of health and wellbeing undermines the richness that sustains it and may lead to disenchantment within health services and community gardening organisations that could threaten the future of ‘green social prescribing’.
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This study sought to examine whether two facets of weight self-stigma (fear of enacted stigma and self-devaluation) were associated with weight change and treatment engagement for 188 individuals participating in a 3-month online weight loss program. Fear of enacted stigma predicted less weight loss 3 months later after controlling for demographics, eating problems, and psychological symptoms. Self-devaluation did not predict weight loss. Neither weight self-stigma variable predicted engagement in the online program. These results add to the literature indicating the negative effects of weight self-stigma while highlighting the central role of fear of being stigmatized by others in this process.
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Objective: Higher body-weight people are highly stigmatized and face prejudice and discrimination across a number of domains. Further, experiences of weight stigmatization are associated with a host of negative physical, psychological, and social consequences. However, less is known about effective means for reducing weight bias. One strategy that has shown some success in prejudice reduction, yet is relatively untested for weight bias, is imagined intergroup contact. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of counterstereotypic imagined intergroup contact on weight bias. Method: Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 experimental conditions or a control group. In the experimental conditions, participants were asked to imagine interactions with either a counterstereotypic (e.g., confident, attractive) or stereotypic (e.g., unattractive, insecure) "obese" person. Participants then completed the Anti-fat Attitudes Questionnaire (dislike subscale; Crandall, 1994; Quinn & Crocker, 1999), the Universal Measure of Bias-Fat (negative judgment and social distance subscales; Latner et al., 2008), and the Fat Phobia Scale. Results: Results indicated that participants in the counterstereotypic condition reported lower levels of weight bias (dislike, negative judgment, and social distance) than participants in the stereotypic and control conditions. Conclusion: These findings highlight the potential usefulness of counterstereotypic imagined contact to reduce weight bias. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Against the backdrop of a global physical inactivity crisis, attempts to both understand and positively influence physical activity behaviours are characterized by a focus on individual-level factors (e.g., cognitions, attitudes, motivation). Drawn from an emerging body of work that has explored the applicability of social identity and self-categorization theories to domains of sport and health, we outline a new perspective from which to understand and address this pervasive problem. This social identity approach suggests that the groups to which people belong can be, and often are, incorporated into their sense of self and, through this, are powerful determinants of physical activity-related behaviour. We start by reviewing the current state of physical activity research and highlighting the potential for the social identity approach to help understand how social factors influence these behaviours. Next, we outline the theoretical underpinnings of the social identity approach, and provide three key examples that speak to the analytical and practical value of the social identity approach in physical activity settings. Specifically, we argue (1) that social identity can be harnessed to promote engagement in physical activity, (2) that social identity underpins exercise group behaviour, and (3) that social identity underpins effective leadership in exercise settings. We conclude by identifying prospects for a range of theory-informed research developments.
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Objective To examine the association between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity in a large population-based sample. Design Data were from 2423 men and 3057 women aged ≥50 years participating in Wave 5 (2010/11) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Participants reported experiences of weight discrimination in everyday life and frequency of light, moderate and vigorous physical activities. We used logistic regression to test associations between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity, controlling for age, sex, socioeconomic status and body mass index (BMI). Results Perceived weight discrimination was associated with almost 60% higher odds of being inactive (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.40, p=.028) and 30% lower odds of engaging in moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.94, p=.017). Conclusions Independent of BMI, individuals who perceive unfair treatment on the basis of their weight are less physically active than those who do not perceive discrimination. This has important implications for the health and well-being of individuals who experience weight-based discrimination, and may also contribute to a cycle of weight gain and further mistreatment.
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The present study aimed to develop effective moral educational interventions based on social psychology by using stories of moral exemplars. We tested whether motivation to engage in voluntary service as a form of moral behavior was better promoted by attainable and relevant exemplars or by unattainable and irrelevant exemplars. First, experiment 1, conducted in a lab, showed that stories of attainable exemplars more effectively promoted voluntary service activity engagement among undergraduate students compared with stories of unattainable exemplars and non-moral stories. Second, experiment 2, a middle school classroom-level experiment with a quasi-experimental design, demonstrated that peer exemplars, who are perceived to be attainable and relevant to students, better promoted service engagement compared with historic figures in moral education classes.
Book
This book equips readers with the knowledge required to improve diagnosis and treatment and to implement integrated prevention programs in patients with eating and weight disorders. It does so by providing a comprehensive, up-to-date review of research findings and theoretical assumptions concerning the interface and interactions between body image and such disorders as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, other specified feeding and eating disorders, orthorexia nervosa, overweight, and obesity. After consideration of issues of definition and classification, the opening part of the book examines the concept of body image from a variety of viewpoints. A series of chapters are then devoted to the assessment of the multidimensional construct “body image”, to dysmorphophobia/body dysmorphic disorder, and to muscle dysmorphia. The third part discusses body image in people suffering from different eating disorders and/or overweight or obesity, and two final chapters focus on body image in the integrated prevention of eating disorders and obesity, and cultural differences regarding body image. The book will be of interest to all health professionals who work in the fields of psychiatry, clinical psychology, eating disorders, obesity, body image, adolescence, public health, and prevention.
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Whereas running is an inherently independent form of exercise, it is often a social endeavor conducted in groups. We tested how group membership and social contexts were associated with running identities and behavior. In Study 1, 103 running group members read vignettes where they imagined training on their own or within their group. Group imagery participants reported stronger running identities and this effect was primarily evident among females. In Study 2, 227 runners reported running identity and behavior along with the extent that they run in formal and informal groups. Those who ran in both formal and informal groups reported stronger identities and increased behavior. These findings build upon identity theory to reveal how group membership is connected to personal identities.
Article
Objectives Recently, victimization has been shown to be negatively related to physical activity among adolescents with overweight or obesity. However, research on this relation remains scarce and plagued by multiple limitations. The objectives of this study were twofold. First, we wanted to replicate and extend previous research among adolescents with overweight and obesity by examining the relations between perceived weight-related victimization in school-based physical activity and students’ perceived physical education performance or involvement in physical activity outside school. Second, we wanted to investigate the indirect role of perceived physical abilities and fear of enacted stigma on these relations. Design A cross-sectional design was used. Method A sample of 144 secondary school students with overweight and obesity participated in this study. Results Perceived physical abilities were found to play a significant and negative indirect role in the relations between perceived weight-related victimization and students’ perceived physical education performance or involvement in physical activity outside school. When sex and age were controlled for, these relations remained significant. The mediating role of fear of enacted stigma was non-significant. Conclusions Schools should implement policies that do not tolerate weight-related victimization of students and that promote a safe and positive climate during physical activities. Moreover, a personalized approach providing choices and encouragements would help youth gain confidence in their abilities to perform or engage in physical activities.
Article
Introduction Obesity is an ongoing public health concern in the U.S. Weight stigma is linked to a number of obesogenic health outcomes, which complicate obesity treatment and prevention. Despite higher rates of obesity in female and minority populations, little research has examined weight stigma in non-white women and men. This study investigated intersectionality in weight stigma and health-related coping responses to stigmatizing experiences across racial groups. Methods In 2015, a total of 2,378 adults completed questionnaires about weight stigma, weight bias internalization, and coping strategies. Analyses were conducted in 2016. Results No differences in weight stigma emerged as a function of race or gender, but women reported higher weight bias internalization (B=0.19, p=0.004). Further, black men and women reported less weight bias internalization than white men and women (B=–0.43, p=0.009). Compared with white women, black women were less likely to cope with stigma using disordered eating (B=–0.57, p=0.001), whereas Hispanic women were more likely to cope with stigma using disordered eating (B=0.39, p=0.020). Black men were more likely than white men to cope with stigma via eating (B=–0.49, p=0.017). Conclusions Findings highlight that weight stigma is equally present across racial groups, but that groups internalize and cope with stigma in different ways, which exacerbate health risks. Increased research and policy attention should address stigma as an obstacle in prevention and treatment for obesity to reduce weight-based inequities in underserved populations.