Weight bias is evident in many areas of life. It can impact how people are treated in the workplace, in public, and in our personal lives. Unfortunately, some negative weight bias associations include the thought that overweight people are “lazier” than their less-overweight counterparts. People who are obese are viewed as less motivated, are offered lower salaries, and have lower employment rates. It can also impact health care coverage. For men and women who are overweight, weight bias can be very difficult to overcome. Weight bias may impact the social arena, too, by impacting relationships equally as much as other areas of life. These same factors may even be true when someone who was once obese lose weight.
An interesting new study published by the Journal of Stigma and Health examines weight bias towards formerly obese subjects in relation to romantic choices. The study recruited a large sample of undergraduate students comprised of 318 men and 379 women. These students completed an online questionnaire addressing their dating preferences pertaining to health decisions, physical characteristics, and romantic interest.
The results of the study revealed that obese people were consistently rated lower as a potential spouse by both women and men. Women were more likely to choose an overweight person as a friend over a thin person. Males showed the opposite trend by selecting thinner people to have as friends over obese people. Ratings for people who were formerly obese declined when student participants learned about a past history of obesity even when the person lose weight in a healthy way.
Men did tend to view women who lose weight through dieting and exercise more favorably than those who lost weight using other methods. For men, the method in which a person lose weight did not have much bearing on their potential mate value. The women who participated in the study had a negative view of men who lost weight using diet pills or by undergoing bariatric surgery. Women viewed men who did not use exercise and diet for effective weight loss as low potential mate scores.
There is no telling if and when weight bias will change. The key message is to work on yourself, for yourself, and to stay focused on your health. For those of you out there working towards long term, effective weight loss goals and a healthy lifestyle, we salute you!