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Stigma Associated with Weight Loss Challenged

Stigma Associated with Weight Loss Challenged

New research finds that a majority of people who have lost a lot of weight do not believe they are being “judged” because they used to be overweight or obese.

The findings emanate from a qualitative study performed by researchers from North Carolina State University. The new findings contradict earlier research that suggest people were still stigmatized even after reaching a healthy weight.

Previous studies found that people judge thin individuals more harshly if they know that those individuals used to be overweight; for example, judging them to be less attractive or lazier.

“I wanted to know whether people who have lost weight did experience this sort of ‘residual stigma,’ and how they navigated that issue,” said Lynsey Romo, :h.D., author of a paper describing the work.

“Specifically, I looked at how and what these people chose to share about their weight loss.”

For this study, Romo conducted in-depth interviews with 17 men and 13 women. All of the study participants self-identified as having a normal weight, but had previously been overweight or obese. The average weight loss for study participants was 76.4 pounds.

“I found that an overwhelming number of participants had not perceived any residual stigma related to their weight loss; most felt the response to their weight loss was very positive,” Romo said.

“Most study participants were extremely open about their weight loss, for different reasons,” she said. “Some wanted to try to inspire others who were trying to lose weight, some disclosed their experience in order to build relationships by sharing personal information, and others felt that talking about their weight loss publicly made them feel more accountable and helped them keep the weight off.”

However, a few study participants were hesitant to talk about their weight loss.

Investigators believe they were reluctant to talk about their remarkable success because they didn’t want to be seen as boastful. Another small minority of participants were fearful of residual stigmal that they would be viewed negatively if others found out they had been overweight.

“Based on this work, the residual stigma discussed in earlier research may be overstated,” Romo said. “Or, at least, most people who have lost weight don’t perceive a biased response in their day-to-day interactions.

“Everyone needs to make his or her own decisions, but this research suggests that most people should feel comfortable talking about their weight loss experiences.”

The research is published in the journal Health Communication.

Source: North Carolina State University

Stigma Associated with Weight Loss Challenged

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Stigma Associated with Weight Loss Challenged. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 Feb 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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