The weight of weight self-stigma in unhealthy eating behaviours: the mediator role of weight-related experiential avoidance

  • Lara Palmeira
  • Marina Cunha
  • José Pinto-Gouveia
Original Article


Weight stigma plays a damaging role in the life of the individuals with overweight and obesity who may internalise the widespread stigmatisation messages. Weight self-stigma is defined as personal experiences of shame, negative self-evaluations as well as perceived discrimination. It has been found to be related to experiential avoidance patterns and poorer outcomes. The current study aims to conduct a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on the Weight Self-Stigma Questionnaire (WSSQ) and explore its psychometric properties. Furthermore, the mediator role of weight-related experiential avoidance on the relationship between weight self-stigma and unhealthy eating behaviour was analysed. Concerning the CFA, the sample comprised 331 women with overweight and obesity seeking nutritional treatment. A second independent sample of 58 overweight and obese women was used to assess WSSQ’s temporal validity and internal responsiveness. Results supported the WSSQ two-factor structure and good psychometric properties and responsiveness to change. Also, evidence was found for the mediator role of weight-related experiential avoidance on the relationship between BMI, weight self-stigma and unhealthy eating patterns in women with overweight and obesity. Overall, the current study showed that WSSQ is a reliable measure and highlights the important role of weight self-stigma and weight-related experiential avoidance in women with overweight and obesity.

Level of evidence: Level V, descriptive studies.


Weight self-stigma Confirmatory factor analysis Obesity Eating behaviours Weight-related experiential avoidance 



The authors would like to acknowledge the nutritionists from Figueira da Foz District Hospital (HDFF), Eiras and Figueira da Foz primary care units and Nutribalance for their valuable collaboration with the data collection. The authors would also like acknowledge Professor Bruno de Sousa from FPCE-UC for the statistical support.


This research was supported by the first author’s Ph.D. Grant (SFRH/BD/84452/2012), sponsored by FCT (Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author declared that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Research in Neuropsychology and Cognitive and Behavioral Intervention (CINEICC)University of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  2. 2.Miguel Torga Superior Institute (ISMT)CoimbraPortugal

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