Can weight discrimination lead to obesity? Yes, according to a study posted on PLOSONE July 24; those who experience weight discrimination may have more than twice the chance of becoming obese, while those currently obese are three times more likely to remain so, compared to those who do not experience such weight discrimination.
A total of 6,157 participants from the national Health and Retirement Study were assessed from 2004 – 2010. Participants initially responded to a psychosocial questionnaire rating their experience of everyday discrimination and then attributing those experiences to a number of personal characteristics. A total of 513 of the participants (8%) reported that they had been discriminated against because of their weight.
Participants had their weight and height measured and were classified as obese (BMI≥30) or non-obese (BMI<30) at both the baseline and follow-up assessments
Those who experienced weight discrimination who were not initially obese, had a 2.5 times greater chance to become obese by follow-up than those who reported discrimination of another kind. Those who were obese at the start of the study were over 3 times more likely to remain so, compared to those who felt other kinds of discrimination.
There are many factors that could contribute to the relationship between discrimination and obesity. Evidence shows that internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing, and stigmatizing experiences, are associated with more frequent binge eating. According to a 2008 study published in Eating Behaviors the psychological stress resulting from weight-based stigmatization was a key predictor for binge eating.
Weight stigmamatizing experiences may also lead to feelings of less inadequacy. The Council on Size and Weight Discrimination states workers who are heavier than average are paid $1.25 less an hour. According to Obesity Facts 2010 consciousness of weight stigma, can negatively impact a person’s willingness to participate in physical activity and exercise even more than actual weight status.
The present research demonstrates that weight discrimination rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, can lead to activities that provoke weight gain such as excessive food intake and physical inactivity resulting in an increased obesity risk.
Perceived Weight Discrimination and Obesity, Angelina R. Sutin , Antonio Terracciano- Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida, United States of America, Published: PLOS ONE July 24, 2013
Effects of Weight Stigma on Exercise Motivation and Behavior, A Preliminary Investigation among College-aged Females, Journal of Health Psychology, January 2008; vol. 13, 1: pp. 131-138, Lenny R. Vartanian, Syracuse University, USA, Jacqueline G. Shaprow, Yale University, USA