Weight stigma and eating behavior: A review of the literature

Appetite. 2016 Jul 1;102:3-14. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2016.01.034. Epub 2016 Jan 29.


Weight stigma is a pervasive social problem, and this paper reviews the evidence linking weight stigma to eating behavior. Correlational studies consistently find that experiences with weight stigma are associated with unhealthy eating behaviors and eating pathology (such as binge eating, skipping meals), although results vary somewhat depending on the sample being studied and the specific stigma/eating constructs being assessed. Experimental studies consistently find that manipulations such as priming overweight stereotypes, exposure to stigmatizing content, and social exclusion all lead to increased food intake, but whether or not those manipulations capture the impact of weight stigma experiences per se is less clear. Finally, studies of stigma experiences in daily life show that more frequent stigma experiences are associated with decreased motivation to diet and with less healthy eating behaviors. Overall, this research highlights the potential for weight stigma to negatively impact individuals' eating behavior, which in turn could have consequences for their overall health and well-being.

Keywords: Disordered eating; Eating behavior; Weight stigma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / etiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / etiology
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / psychology*
  • Binge-Eating Disorder / therapy
  • Body Weight
  • Combined Modality Therapy / psychology
  • Diet, Healthy / psychology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / therapy
  • Humans
  • Nutritional Status
  • Overweight / prevention & control*
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Overweight / therapy
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Precision Medicine*
  • Social Marginalization / psychology
  • Social Stigma*
  • Stereotyping