Send to

Choose Destination
Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Oct;20(10):2035-8. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.55. Epub 2012 Mar 7.

Residual obesity stigma: an experimental investigation of bias against obese and lean targets differing in weight-loss history.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.


This study investigated stigma directed at formerly obese persons who lost weight and became lean (through behavioral or surgical methods), or lost weight but remained obese, relative to weight-stable obese and weight-stable lean persons. This study also compared stigma directed at obese persons following exposure to descriptions of persons who lost weight vs. remained weight stable. In a between-subject experimental design, participants (n = 273) were randomly assigned to read vignettes describing targets varying across two dimensions, weight stability (i.e., weight stable or weight lost) and current weight (i.e., currently obese or currently lean). Participants completed measures of stigma against specific targets and measures of stigma against obese individuals in general. Lean individuals who were formerly obese were stigmatized more on attractiveness than weight-stable lean individuals, and as much as currently obese individuals. Stigma across domains was greater among currently obese individuals (regardless of whether they had lost weight from a higher weight) than among currently lean individuals. After reading vignettes describing weight loss, participants demonstrated greater obesity stigma than after reading vignettes describing weight-stable individuals. These results suggest that residual stigma remains against people who have previously been obese, even when they have lost substantial amounts of weight and regardless of their weight-loss method. Exposure to portrayals of the malleability of body weight, such as those promoted in the popular media, may significantly worsen obesity stigma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center