University of Hawaii Study Finds Women Who Have Lost Weight Face a “Residual Obesity Stigma”

A new study has found that women who were once obese, but have since lost weight, continue to face prejudice and discrimination. The study was led by Janet Latner, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii.

Dr. Latner gave study participants short biographies of women who had either lost weight or who had stable weight and their current weight ranged from thin to obese. The participants were then asked questions about the women as to their attractiveness. The results showed that women who had been obese but had lost weight were deemed less attractive than women who had maintained a healthy stable weight.

“Prejudice against obese people is widespread and hurtful,” Professor Latner said. “Many obese people are trying to lose weight to escape painful discrimination.  Surprisingly, however, currently thin women were viewed differently depending on their weight history. Those who had been obese in the past were perceived as less attractive than those who had always been thin, despite having identical height and weight.”

Professor Latner says that this “residual stigma” might explain the lower-than-expected earnings and occupational attainment by women who were previously, but who are no longer, overweight.

Professor Latner has been on the faculty at the University of Hawaii since 2006. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Rutgers University.

The article was published in the journal Obesity. It can be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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