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Obesity Stereotypes Can Lead to More Weight Gain

Update Date: Jul 25, 2013 10:46 AM EDT

Due to the current stereotypes that exist, prejudging people based on their skin color, sex and physical appearance occurs more frequently than it should. Stereotypes and stigmas can be detrimental because it leads to discrimination, which can then cause drifts between people and communities. In a recent study, researchers looked at how stereotypes about obesity affect the mental and physical health of overweight or obese people. The research team found that stigmas surrounding obesity could actually lead to more weight gain.

"Rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, weight discrimination increases risk for obesity," the researchers explained in their study according to the LA Times.

"Discrimination is hurtful and demeaning, and has real implications for physical health," the lead researcher, Angelina Sutin said reported by HealthDay. Sutin is an assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University. "In the case of weight discrimination, people often rationalize that it is Ok to do because it will motivate the victim to lose weight. Our findings suggest the opposite."

For this study, the researchers from the Florida State University College of Medicine reviewed the data of 6, 157 people who were a part of the Health and Retirement Study in 2006 and 2010. This study was nationally representative. The researchers evaluated the data to observe how obese or overweight people dealt with stereotypes about weight or experienced discrimination due to their weight.

The participants were classified as obese or not obese at the beginning of the study in 2006. The team measured discrimination based on how the participants rated their everyday interactions. The team found that people who dealt with discrimination regarding their weight were 2.5 times more likely to be obese during the follow up study. The amount of participants who ended up obese by 2010 was 357.

"There is robust evidence that internalizing weight-based stereotypes, teasing and stigmatizing experiences are associated with more frequent binge eating," the researchers wrote. "

The researchers believe that addressing weight discrimination would be vital in determining how to combat the obesity pandemic in a more efficient way. The findings were published in PLOS ONE.

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