Weight Bias Stinks — Literally

As fat shaming is increasingly being called out and rejected, explicit weight bias might become less common. That begs the question of implicit — unspoken — weight bias. Researchers from UCLA have just published a study with a novel way of measuring such bias. It turns out that weight bias stinks.

The researchers asked people to rate the smell of an odorless lotion on a card while they viewed images of people mixed in with neutral objects. Some subjects saw images of people with excess weight and obesity. Others saw people in a healthy weight range.

When seeing images of people with obesity, people rated the odorless lotion much worse for its smell.

Lead author Incollingo Rodriguez commented, saying:

Weight bias can affect people’s everyday lives in many different ways, including how they are treated in social situations, the quality of medical care they receive, and hiring and promotion decisions. It also undermines people’s motivation to diet and exercise. If anything, stigma is a barrier to these lifestyle changes that people commonly use to lose weight.

By being aware of our deep-seated attitudes regarding weight, we can begin to change our behavior.

Unpleasant smells are deeply linked to feelings of disgust. Understanding such feelings and setting them aside is essential for dealing objectively with obesity.

Click here to read more from the LA Times and here to read the study.

Stink Bug, photograph © Macroscopic Solutions / flickr

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