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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.

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EduWeight: Weight Management for Adult Patients with Chronic Disease

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