Posted by: richarlm | May 3, 2019

Fat Shaming and Health

The following is a transcript of a recent Research That Matters piece on fat shaming. Listen to this segment and the rest of the show “How Parental Leave Policies Impact Health.

Dr. Adam Goldberg: We’re going to look at some research that matters and the first one is about what’s called celebrity fat shaming. We know that obesity is such a significant concern. And even among people who aren’t obese, their beliefs, their thought processes about their own weight is particularly, sometimes difficult. We see eating disorders, we see binge eating, all kinds of issues. We see the pressures on young adult women, on young women, on women of all ages, on men of all ages, here and we know that this celebrity fat shaming is something that’s created a lot of we might say ‘buzz’ around the country. And the question that these researchers wanted to know is does this actually impact women who are watching and aware of this fat shaming. These are researchers from McGill University in Canada and they were looking at twenty instances of celebrity fat shaming, looking at what’s called implicit attitudes that women have about their weight before and after this type of event. This was from 2004-2015 and implicit weight bias was on the rise during this time. And these are people’s split second reactions to something that they think is inherently good or bad. This was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin and it’s a longitudinal research called Project Implicit of participants who took an online weight implicit association test during an eleven-year time period. And what they found is that these fat shaming events, such as Kourtney Kardashian being shamed by her husband for not losing her post pregnancy weight quickly enough in 2014, that these events led to a spike in women’s implicit anti-fat attitudes. Much more so after these notorious events with greater spikes. It doesn’t mean that this proves a cause and effect here, but it does show that the culture’s emphasis on the thin ideal mate actually, and these fat shaming may actually contribute to worse problems. We do know that weight bias continues to be socially acceptable. It is discrimination and it needs to change. I think more research that these researchers are planning to do to see if they can change these implicit biases would be really good.

What is Implicit Bias?
“Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.” Kirwan Institute

Healthcare providers are susceptible to implicit bias just like the rest of us. This can impact patient care. Learn more with these resources.

How to Reduce Implicit Bias (Institute for Healthcare Improvement)
Implicit Biases Have an Explicit Impact on Healthcare Outcomes (American Journal of Managed Care)
Implicit Bias Guide (UNC Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library)

What is Weight Bias? (Obesity Action Coalition)

The weight implicit association test, mentioned in Research That Matters, is part of Project Implicit from Harvard University. To take the test and learn more about your own biases, choose the social attitudes test and then the weight IAT on the Project Implicit site.

Provided by librarians at the University of North Carolina Health Sciences Library.


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