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Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Feb;36(2):314-9. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.26. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Changes in weight bias following weight loss: the impact of weight-loss method.

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  • 1School of Psychology, The University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.



Many obese individuals lose weight to reduce weight stigma; however, little is known about whether other people's attitudes actually improve towards obese individuals after they have lost weight, and whether changes in attitudes depend on the method of weight loss. This study examined changes in people's perceptions of an obese target who had lost weight through diet and exercise or through surgery.


Participants (N=73) initially viewed an image of an obese woman or a thin woman (control condition), and were asked to indicate their perceptions of the target with respect to the target's behaviors (for example, how often she exercises), as well as some personality characteristics (for example, lazy, sloppy and competent). Participants then viewed a more recent image of the target in which she had lost weight, and were informed that the target had lost weight through diet and exercise or through surgery, or were not provided with any explanation for the weight loss. Participants once again indicated their impression of the target on the same measures.


Regardless of the method of weight loss, all targets were rated as eating more healthily, exercising more, and being more competent and less sloppy after having lost weight. Participants also rated the target as less lazy when they learned that she had lost weight through diet and exercise, or when no information was provided about the method of weight loss; the target who lost weight through surgery, however, was not seen as being any less lazy after losing weight.


These findings indicate that perceptions of obese individuals can in fact improve after they have lost weight, but that this might depend on the method of weight loss.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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