STUDY: Obese Prejudice Remains Even After Women Lose Weight

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Women are shaking the fat but maintaining the stigma. Formerly obese women are still facing “fat-prejudice” even after they shed the pounds.


In a study conducted by The University of Hawaii at Manoa, women were viewed more attractively depending on their weight history, not their current weight on the scale. Dr. Janet Latner, the lead author of the study, told, “We found that people who had lost weight were viewed more negatively in terms of attractiveness than people who had remained stable.” Latner explained that despite a woman’s significant weight loss, she was still less attractive than both a thin and larger woman.


Latner’s study asked men and women to read several stories about a woman who lost 70 pounds. Participants in the study also read about a woman who was thin or obese but remained the same size. They were then asked to rate the women’s attractiveness.


Stories about a woman’s weight loss led to a greater negative reaction than stories describing weight stability. Participants were more biased towards women whose weight seemed easy to manage. Dr. Janet Latner believes that people were more negative towards the women who lost weight because it was something they could easily control.”The leading theory is controllability theory,” Latner said. “…Stigmatized conditions are despised more when they are perceived as easily controllable, [this is] a widespread perception about obesity.”


Overweight women are discriminated against in both their professional and private lives. Latner said her findings are so alarming that government intervention is necessary. “We really need public policies that combat obesity stigma… Some evidence suggests that social consensus approaches… and intensive education approaches can be effective in reducing stigma.”


Latner believes this study demonstrates how harmful obesity can be, and that the strength of the epidemic is powerful, pervasive, and persistent.


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Annsleigh Denise is a graduate of Spelman College, earning a Bachelor's Degree in English and a Minor in Multi-Media and Professional Writing. She is a multifaceted creative, focused on the inner-workings of print, publication, and Broadcast Journalism. Possessing notable editorial skills, Annsleigh aspires to utilize her professional experience to impact the world of media.

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