Weight stigma is associated with a range of negative outcomes, including disordered eating, but the psychological mechanisms underlying these associations are not well understood. The present study tested whether the association between weight stigma experiences and disordered eating behaviors (emotional eating, uncontrolled eating, and loss-of-control eating) are mediated by weight bias internalization and psychological distress. Six-hundred and thirty-four undergraduate university students completed an online survey assessing weight stigma, weight bias internalization, psychological distress, disordered eating, along with demographic characteristics (i.e., age, gender, weight status). Statistical analyses found that weight stigma was significantly associated with all measures of disordered eating, and with weight bias internalization and psychological distress. In regression and mediation analyses accounting for age, gender and weight status, weight bias internalization and psychological distress mediated the relationship between weight stigma and disordered eating behavior. Thus, weight bias internalization and psychological distress appear to be important factors underpinning the relationship between weight stigma and disordered eating behaviors, and could be targets for interventions, such as, psychological acceptance and mindfulness therapy, which have been shown to reduce the impact of weight stigma. The evidence for the health consequences resulting from weight stigma is becoming clear. It is important that health and social policy makers are informed of this literature and encouraged develop anti-weight stigma policies for school, work, and medical settings.
Keywords: Eating; Obesity; Psychological distress; Weight bias internalization; Weight stigma.
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