£199.99 £139.99 for one year of Unlimited learning. Offer ends on 14 November 2022 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply

Find out more
Overview of weight bias and stigma
Skip main navigation

Overview of weight bias and stigma

Learn more about weight bias and stigma

Weight bias is defined as negative attitudes towards, and beliefs about, others because of their weight. These negative attitudes are manifested by stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination1. Internalised weight bias is defined as holding negative beliefs about one’s self due to weight or size.

Weight-based stereotypes include generalisations towards people affected by overweight or obesity such as considering them to be lazy, unmotivated, lacking self-discipline, unattractive, dishonest, costly to society, or less intelligent.

Weight stigma resulting from weight bias is the discrediting of a person because they are seen as having overweight or obesity.

Weight biases can either be:

  • Explicit -where biases against weight are within conscious awareness and influence outward behaviour in an intentional manner; or
  • Implicit -where biases are automatically activated and tend to be more unconscious, influencing individual behaviour without clear awareness.

Weight stigma is present in everyday life including school, work and healthcare settings2, 3, 4

  • Across the world, people of all ages, races and cultural backgrounds who have overweight or obesity frequently experience stigma, prejudice and discrimination due to their weight in a variety of settings.
  • The prevalence of weight stigma can differ between countries.
  • Weight bias has been found in health professionals from a range of disciplines including doctors, nurses, dietitians, psychologists and physiotherapists.

Leading international obesity bodies are therefore working to create public awareness about the complexity of obesity and the detrimental impact of weight stigma in order to try and combat this problem.1

Watch this short YouTube clip. The clip presents ‘Voices of Obesity’ as people speak about the experience of living with obesity in a stigmatised society.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

This article is from the free online

EduWeight: Weight Management for Adult Patients with Chronic Disease

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education