Weight Bias & Weight Stigma

People who have a higher body weight are vulnerable to stereotypes, bias, bullying, and discrimination in our society. Known as “weight bias” or “weight stigma,” these experiences occur for both children and adults in many aspects of daily life. People face weight discrimination in the workplace, biased attitudes from health care professionals, negative stereotypes in the media, barriers in education, and weight stigma in interpersonal relationships. These stigmatizing experiences are harmful, leading to both immediate and long-term consequences for emotional and physical health, reducing quality of life.

The Rudd Center aims to address weight bias, weight stigma, and weight discrimination through research, education, and advocacy. We’re working to draw attention to weight bias and develop strategies to address this societal problem, by educating and engaging young people, families, teachers, employers, health care professionals, and policymakers.

To effectively address weight bias or weight stigma, efforts are needed in multiple settings throughout our society. Below are informational resources that provide education about weight discrimination and strategies to address this problem.

Media Gallery

The way that persons with obesity are portrayed by the media profoundly shapes the public's understanding and attitudes about persons of higher weight. Television, movies, and social media often reinforce negative attitudes about body weight and perpetuate weight bias or weight stigma throughout our society. For example, characters with larger bodies depicted in popular TV shows and movies are often negatively stereotyped (e.g., portrayed as greedy, sloppy, or unpopular) and are seen in stereotypical roles (e.g., overeating unhealthy foods and being lazy).

There are important opportunities for the media to play a role in efforts to help reduce societal prejudice towards individuals affected by obesity. The Rudd Center has created resources to be used by media professionals, educators, and health professionals for the purpose of improving media content related to obesity and improving respectful portrayals of people regardless of their body size.
Access the Gallery

Media Guidelines

The media is an important and influential source of information about obesity. The way that obesity, weight-loss and weight maintenance are portrayed, described, and framed by the media profoundly shapes the public's understanding and attitudes toward these important health issues and the individuals affect by them.

As a result, the Rudd Center, in partnership with the Obesity Society and Obesity Action Coalition, have created guidelines for media portrayals of individuals affected by weight bias or weight stigma.
Access the Guidelines

Recent Research

Research has consistently documented the adverse effects of parent weight-related comments on adolescent health. However, little empirical attention has focused on isolating the impact of weight-related comments from mothers versus fathers, and the valence of their comments. The present study examined the extent to which positive and negative weight-related comments from mothers and fathers are related to adolescent health and well-being, and whether these associations differ according to adolescent sociodemographic characteristics.

Read the Study