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Sources on attitudes toward fat


Mark V. Roehling, Patricia V. Roehling, and L Maureen Odland

Investigating the Validity of Stereotypes About Overweight Employees: The Relationship Between Body Weight and Normal Personality Traits

Group & Organization Management 2008 33: 392-424.


Research indicates that overweight job applicants and employees are stereo-typically viewed as being less conscientiousness, less agreeable, less emotionally stable, and less extraverted than their "normal-weight" counterparts. Together, the two reported studies investigate the validity of those stereotypes by examining the relationship between body weight and four relevant personality traits (conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability, extraversion) using three measures of body weight (body mass index [BMI] based on self-reported height and weight, BMI based on clinically assessed height and weight, percentage body fat assessed by bio-impedance technology) in a diverse group of 3,496 adults from the United States. There is substantial convergence between the two studies, with findings tending to refute commonly held stereotypes about the personality traits of overweight employees.





Schwartz, Marlene B., Lenny R. Vartanian, Brian A. Nosek and Kelly D. Brownell. “The Influence of One’s Own Body Weight on Implicit and Explicit Anti-fat Bias.” Obesity 14 (2006): 440-447.

Even fat individuals have a strong anti-fat bias. Schwartz and her team provide a list of disturbing trade-offs individuals would make in order to not be fat:

Forty-six percent of respondents reported that they would be willing to give up at least 1 year of life rather than be obese, and 15% reported that they would be willing to give up 10 years or more of their life. In addition, 30% of respondents reported that they would rather be divorced than obese, 25% reported that they would rather be unable to have children than be obese, 15% reported that they would rather be severely depressed, and 14% reported that they would rather be alcoholic.




Perceptions of weight discrimination: prevalence and comparison to race and gender discrimination in America


R M Puhl1, T Andreyeva1 and K D Brownell1





Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA







Objective: Limited data are available on the prevalence and patterns of body weight discrimination from representative samples. This study examined experiences of weight/height discrimination in a nationally representative sample of US adults and compared their prevalence and patterns with discrimination experiences based on race and gender.





Method and procedures: Data were from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, a 1995–1996 community-based survey of English-speaking adults aged 25–74 (N=2290). Reported experiences of weight/height discrimination included a variety of institutional settings and interpersonal relationships. Multivariate regression analyses were used to predict weight/height discrimination controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and body weight status.





Results: The prevalence of weight/height discrimination ranged from 5% among men to 10% among women, but these average percentages obscure the much higher risk of weight discrimination among heavier individuals (40% for adults with body mass index (BMI) of 35 and above). Younger individuals with a higher BMI had a particularly high risk of weight/height discrimination regardless of their race, education and weight status. Women were at greater risk for weight/height discrimination than men, especially women with a BMI of 30–35 who were three times more likely to report weight/height discrimination compared to male peers of a similar weight.





Discussion: Weight/height discrimination is prevalent in American society and is relatively close to reported rates of racial discrimination, particularly among women. Both institutional forms of weight/height discrimination (for example, in employment settings) and interpersonal mistreatment due to weight/height (for example, being called names) were common, and in some cases were even more prevalent than discrimination due to gender and race.








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