Group Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Internalized Weight Stigma: A Pilot Study

Eat Weight Disord. 2018 Jun;23(3):357-362. doi: 10.1007/s40519-016-0336-y. Epub 2016 Oct 27.


Objective: This study tested a novel group-based, cognitive-behavioral intervention designed to reduce internalized weight stigma among individuals with obesity.

Methods: A total of eight men and women with obesity who had experienced weight stigma and reported high levels of internalized weight stigma attended the Weight Bias Internalization and Stigma (BIAS) Program. The program provided eight weekly sessions of cognitive-behavioral treatment to cope with weight stigma. Participants completed questionnaires pre- and post-intervention, including the Weight Bias Internalization Scale (WBIS), Fat Phobia Scale, Weight Efficacy Life-Style Questionnaire (WEL), and Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). Six additional participants were included in a quasi-control group that received no intervention until after completing all study measures.

Results: Participants in the Weight BIAS Program reported significantly greater decreases in WBIS and Fat Phobia scores, and greater increases in WEL scores than participants in the quasi-control group (ps < .04). Changes in BDI-II scores did not differ between groups. Treatment-acceptability ratings were high among participants who received the intervention.

Conclusion: Including cognitive-behavioral strategies to address weight stigma in weight management programs could potentially reduce internalized weight stigma and enhance treatment outcomes.

Keywords: Cognitive-behavioral; Internalized weight stigma; Obesity; Self-efficacy.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Body Weight
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Group*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Efficacy*
  • Social Stigma*
  • Treatment Outcome