Applying Psychological Science, Benefiting Society

Weight Stigma, Stress and Obesity

2015 APA Annual Convention

We have all heard about the perils of the obesity epidemic and its cost ho society. But something you may not know is that it’s not all about willpower and the make-up of the food environment. In this regard, Dr. Janet Tomiyama, an assistant professor at UC Los Angeles, gave a spirited, and impressively convincing, invited talk as part of Div. 38’s programming on the insidious role of weight stigma.

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So how does feeling stigmatized hurt your waistline? In a recent paper, she outlines a model in which weight stigma increases one’s psychological stress, leading to increases in one’s stress physiology- in particular, levels of cortisol (that pesky stress hormone). Cortisol has many known effects, including contributing to visceral fat deposition and a drive to eat, both of which certainly undermine the goal of losing weight. Not only does weight stigma fail to motivate individuals to lose weight, it may, as Tomiyama hypothesizes, lead to…

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