Obesity Doctors Are Weight Biased

Even specialists hold stereotypes against the overweight.

By Colin Allen, published on September 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

Obesity specialists may be biased against their own patients. The
psychologists, physicians and researchers who treat the overweight
apparently look down on their heavy patients, according to a study
published in
Obesity Research.

During an international obesity conference held in Quebec City in
2001, health professionals were asked to take a test measuring their
prejudices against the overweight. While less judgmental than most
people, the specialists did show a strong anti-fat bias: they associated
fat people with laziness and stupidity, and connected them to words like
“bad” and “worthless.”

"The fact that even health professionals have the bias reinforces
how incredibly pervasive and powerful the stigma of obesity is in our
society," says author Marlene Schwartz, a psychologist from Yale
University.

Some 389 people participated in the study. Nearly all did
obesity-related research or worked directly with overweight
patients.

Younger women were the most biased. Schwartz notes that they "are
the group at highest risk for body dissatisfaction." The least biased
were those who where overweight themselves, or had chubby friends.

An estimated 61 percent of adults were overweight in 2000,
according to the Centers for Disease Control. That year, 20 percent of
Americans--38.8 million people--were considered clinically obese.