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Health Consequences of Weight Stigma: Implications for Obesity Prevention and Treatment

Abstract

Despite decades of research documenting consistent stigma and discrimination against individuals with obesity, weight stigma is rarely considered in obesity prevention and treatment efforts. In recent years, evidence has examined weight stigmatization as a unique contributor to negative health outcomes and behaviors that can promote and exacerbate obesity. This review summarizes findings from published studies within the past 4 years examining the relationship between weight stigma and maladaptive eating behaviors (binge eating and increased food consumption), physical activity, weight status (weight gain and loss and development of obesity), and physiological stress responses. Research evaluating the effects of weight stigma present in obesity-related public health campaigns is also highlighted. Evidence collectively demonstrates negative implications of stigmatization for weight-related health correlates and behaviors and suggests that addressing weight stigma in obesity prevention and treatment is warranted. Key questions for future research to further delineate the health effects of weight stigmatization are summarized.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this research from the Rudd Foundation.

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Rebecca Puhl and Young Suh declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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Correspondence to Rebecca Puhl.

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This article is part of the Topical Collection on Obesity Prevention

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Puhl, R., Suh, Y. Health Consequences of Weight Stigma: Implications for Obesity Prevention and Treatment. Curr Obes Rep 4, 182–190 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-015-0153-z

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Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Stigma
  • Discrimination
  • Health
  • Health behaviors