Implicit bias about weight and weight loss treatment outcomes

Eat Behav. 2014 Dec;15(4):648-53. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.08.026. Epub 2014 Sep 16.


Objectives: The goal of the current study was to examine the impact of a weight loss intervention on implicit bias toward weight, as well as the relationship among implicit bias, weight loss behaviors, and weight loss outcomes. Additionally, of interest was the relationship among these variables when implicit weight bias was measured with a novel assessment that portrays individuals who are thin and obese engaged in both stereotypical and nonstereotypical health-related behaviors.

Methods: Implicit weight bias (stereotype consistent and stereotype inconsistent), binge eating, self-monitoring, and body weight were assessed among weight loss participants at baseline and post-treatment (N=44) participating in two weight loss programs.

Results: Stereotype consistent bias significantly decreased from baseline to post-treatment. Greater baseline stereotype consistent bias was associated with lower binge eating and greater self-monitoring. Greater post-treatment stereotype consistent bias was associated with greater percent weight loss. Stereotype inconsistent bias did not change from baseline to post-treatment and was generally unrelated to outcomes.

Conclusion: Weight loss treatment may reduce implicit bias toward overweight individuals among weight loss participants. Higher post-treatment stereotype consistent bias was associated with a higher percent weight loss, possibly suggesting that losing weight may serve to maintain implicit weight bias. Alternatively, great implicit weight bias may identify individuals motivated to make changes necessary for weight loss.

Keywords: Implicit associations test; Implicit weight bias; Obesity; Weight loss treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Self Care / psychology
  • Stereotyping*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss