Researchers believe weight bias harms people most when it’s internalized. The more people blame themselves, the more likely they are to have health problems, a new study suggests. These health problems can lead to serious issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
“When people with obesity internalize weight bias, they start believing that negative stereotypes apply to themselves,” said Ted Kyle, spokesperson for The Obesity Society. “Not only is this an unfair generalization, it can actually harm the mental and physical health of people with obesity.”
Roughly 35 percent of all adults and 17 percent of children ages 2-19 years have obesity, a complex disease. Many factors that cause obesity are outside of an individual’s control. Yet many people still mistakenly believe overeating and not exercising enough are to blame.
Experiencing weight stigma can increase stress hormones, blood pressure, inflammation and raise the risk for diabetes and heart disease.
What appears to be worse is when people internalize weight stigma. They start blaming themselves or believe their weight problem is tied to willpower, not exercising enough or overeating.
Researchers found that the more people internalized weight bias, the higher their odds for having metabolic syndrome. The syndrome is a cluster of risk factors associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other obesity-related health problems.
Weight Bias Harms Health
“When people with obesity internalize the weight-based stigma that they frequently encounter in our society, it can negatively affect their mental health and lead to unhealthy behaviors like overeating,” said lead researcher Rebecca L. Pearl, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. “In this study, we found evidence that weight bias internalization may also be associated with poorer physical health. These initial findings emphasize that blaming and shaming people with obesity does not help them to improve their health, and in fact may make the problem worse.”
People who are overweight or have obesity should try to avoid blaming themselves.
Source: The Obesity Society news release
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