Obesity Carries Stigma, Even After Weight Loss

Women who were once obese and lost the excess weight were found less attractive than women who maintained a stable weight, a recent study shows.

Once-Obese Women Found Less Attractive Even After Losing WeightA study on the obesity stigma in American society found that people view women as less attractive if they were once obese and lost weight, compared to women who stayed within the same weight range, regardless of whether they were overweight or thin.

“Previous research has shown that the harmful nature of obesity stigma crossed many domains,” lead author Dr. Janet Latner from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa told FoxNews.com. “So we designed an experiment to look at whether obesity sting persisted once the weight had been dropped.”

Researchers asked a group of young men and women to read a collection of stories concerning women and their weight history. The stories featured women who lost 70 pounds and women who maintained the same weight and who were currently either obese or thin. The participants were then asked to rate the attractiveness of the women.

“We were surprised to find that currently thin women were viewed differently depending on their weight history,” said Dr. Latner in a press statement. “Those who had been obese in the past were perceived as less attractive than those who had always been thin, despite having identical height and weight.”

Participants also demonstrated a greater bias toward obese individuals after they read about women who lost 70 pounds as compared to reading about women maintaining a stable weight, whether or not they were heavy.

Researches believed the bias might stem from the controllability theory. In other words, participants held the belief that people have control over their weight.

“Stigmatized conditions are despised more when they are perceived as easily controllable, a widespread perception about obesity,” said Dr. Latner. “Our findings partly supported this theory by demonstrating that reading vignettes describing weight loss led to greater obesity stigma than reading vignettes describing weight stability.”

Although the fight against obesity is crucial, the researchers note there must also be a fight against the obesity stigma, which might prevent women from taking steps to shed excess weight.

The findings were published earlier this year in the journal Obesity.


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