Blind to Your Own Weight Bias in Eating Disorders

Professionals who treat eating disorders are the last group you would expect to harbor bias against people with obesity, right? Wrong. New research from Rebecca Puhl and colleagues at the Yale Rudd Center shows that even these professionals hold negative attitudes and stereotypes that make them uncomfortable caring for patients with obesity.

Yet almost all of these professionals (84-88%) felt confident and well-prepared to provide care for patients with obesity. Among these confident providers, more than half had observed their colleagues making negative comments about patients with obesity. And 42% say that negative stereotypes about patients with obesity are commonly held by their colleagues. Seems it’s easy to be blind to your own weight bias.

Validated measures of weight bias confirmed a significant level of weight bias in eating disorder professionals. Though the scores were somewhat lower than reported elsewhere for other medical and health professionals, they have important implications for patients, who are all too familiar with such bias.

It’s no surprise that these professionals might harbor weight bias, say the authors:

Like health professionals in other disciplines, professionals who treat eating disorders are not immune to weight bias, and these biases are associated with negative attitudes and frustrations about the clinical treatment of obese persons. These findings, coupled with the high percentage of professionals in our study who reported observing negative weight biases amongst their colleagues in the eating disorders field, highlight the importance of increasing attention to the issue of weight bias.

Here’s the real insight. If you think you’re immune to weight bias, think again. It’s tough to address a problem until you see it clearly.

Click here to read more from Reuters and here to read the study.

Broken Blind Spot Check, photograph © Christian Yves Ocampo / flickr

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