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Trading life and limb in pursuit of being thin

Medicine@Yale, 2006 - July Aug


Considering the social stigma and adverse health effects, most people would never choose to be obese. But just how far would people go to avoid being fat?

Marlene B. Schwartz, Ph.D., director of research and school programs at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, and colleagues polled nearly 4,300 individuals across the weight spectrum—from underweight to extremely obese—and asked what they would sacrifice to not be fat.

As reported in the March issue of Obesity, 46 percent of the respondents said they would give up a year of life, 30 percent would divorce their spouse, and 25 percent would forego bearing children. Some went further: 5 percent reported that they would prefer to lose a limb and 4 percent said they would rather be blind than obese.

The researchers found anti-fat bias in all respondents, even those who are obese. “The fact that even obese individuals exhibited a significant implicit anti-fat bias suggests that they have internalized negative stereotypes, such as believing they are lazy,” says Schwartz, who adds that such stereotypes may undermine people’s motivation to make healthy behavior changes.