Unburdening the Weight of Stigma: Findings From a Compassion-Focused Group Program for Women With Overweight and Obesity

J Cogn Psychother. 2020 Nov 1;34(4):336-357. doi: 10.1891/JCPSY-D-20-00015.


Objective: The aim of this study was to develop a 2-day intensive-format, Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) based group program targeting weight stigma in women with overweight and obesity, and to conduct a pilot study to determine the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention.

Method: Participants were 15 females aged 18-62 years (mean [M] = 43.60, standard deviation [SD] = 12.38), who participated in the program and completed measures of self-compassion, internalized weight stigma, psychological distress, life-satisfaction, loneliness, eating self-efficacy, body dissatisfaction, and body shame, at pre-treatment, post-treatment, and 3-month follow-up.

Results: Significant improvements were found from pre-treatment to post-treatment for self-compassion and internalized weight stigma, with gains maintained at 3-month follow-up. Significant improvements were also found on measures of psychological distress, life satisfaction, loneliness, eating self-efficacy, and body dissatisfaction at the post-treatment assessment. Credibility ratings of the program were high.

Conclusions: This study has contributed to existing stigma research, being the first proof-of-concept study to demonstrate support for an intensive, CFT based group approach targeting the effects of weight stigma for women with overweight and obesity. The findings are discussed in terms of the potential of CFT to assist women develop resilience to the harmful effects of weight stigma, and possible future research directions to further develop and evaluate this approach.

Keywords: internalized weight stigma; obesity; overweight; self-compassion; well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Empathy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Obesity / therapy
  • Overweight* / therapy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Social Stigma