A lot of people are subjected to fat shaming – at work, in school and almost every day. It is a form of prejudice where people are extremely critical of your appearance. Researchers from Penn Medicine believe that people who are obese or overweight face the stereotype of being lazy, incompetent or unattractive and are constantly blamed for their excess weight. According to this study, this kind of an attitude can take a toll on their health and put them at the risk of other diseases like heart trouble and metabolic diseases. The study was published in the journal of The Obesity Society, led by a research team from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Experts examined 159 obese adults, the majority of whom were African American women, who completed baseline questionnaires measuring depression and weight bias internalization before any intervention was given. Weight bias internalization hapens when people apply the negative weight remarks to themselves like believing that they are lazy or unattractive. Participants also underwent medical examinations, which determined whether they had a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors, such as high triglycerides, blood pressure, and waist circumference, which are associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other obesity-related health problems.
Initially, no significant results were found but when the people were divided in two groups of “high” and “low” levels of weight bias internalization it was found that those with high internalization were three times more likely to have metabolic syndrome, and six times more likely to have high triglycerides as compared to participants with low internalization.
Researchers explain that exposure to weight bias and stigma has a negative effect on the person’s mental and physical health that can lead to a physiological stress response like increased inflammation and cortisol levels.This can further trigger unhealthy behaviors such as overeating and avoiding physical activity. They also point out that larger, longer-term studies are required to further asses the possible biological responses and behaviors that may occur.