A qualitative study1 from North Carolina State University suggests that most individuals who have lost a great deal of weight do not look at themselves as being judged because they were big or beefy, meaty or bouncy, which contradicts earlier studies that individuals were still stigmatized even after reaching a normal weight.
“I wanted to know whether people who have lost weight did experience this sort of residual stigma, and how they navigated that issue,” says Lynsey Romo, an assistant professor of communication at NC State and author of a paper describing the work. “Specifically, I looked at how and what these people chose to share about their weight loss” (Shipman, 2016).
For this study, Romo directed in-depth interviews with 17 men and 13 women. All of the study individuals self-identified as having a normal weight; but these participants had been overweight or obese. The weight-loss of these individuals who participated in the study hovered around 76.4 pounds.
“I found that an overwhelming number of participants had not perceived any residual stigma related to their weight loss; most felt the response to their weight loss was very positive,” Romo says (Shipman, 2016).
“Most study participants were extremely open about their weight loss, for different reasons,” Romo says. “Some wanted to try to inspire others who were trying to lose weight, some disclosed their experience in order to build relationships by sharing personal information, and others felt that talking about their weight loss publicly made them feel more accountable and helped them keep the weight off” (Shipman, 2016).
However, a few individuals involved in the study were rather closed mouth about their weight-loss.
A reason for this revolved around seeming conceited or putting on airs of being holier than thou are. For a small group of individuals in the study, there was a concern of lingering rapprochement; that they would be placed in a negative light if others discovered they had been overweight.
“Based on this work, the residual stigma discussed in earlier research may be overstated,” Romo says. “Or, at least, most people who have lost weight don’t perceive a biased response in their day-to-day interactions” (Shipman, 2016).
“Everyone needs to make his or her own decisions, but this research suggests that most people should feel comfortable talking about their weight loss experiences” (Shipman, 2016).
The paper, “How Formerly Overweight and Obese Individuals Negotiate Disclosure of Their Weight Loss,” is published in the journal Health Communication.
1 Qualitative research is aimed at gaining a deep understanding of a specific organization or event, rather than a surface description of a large sample of a population. It aims to provide an explicit rendering of the structure, order, and broad patterns found among a group of participants. It is also called ethnomethodology or field research. It generates data about human groups in social settings (PPA 696 RESEARCH METHODS).
PPA 696 RESEARCH METHODS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 13, 2016, from Qualitative Research Methods: https://web.csulb.edu/~msaintg/ppa696/696quali.htm
Shipman, M. (2016, February 17). Study Finds Stigma Regarding Weight Loss May Be Overblown. Retrieved March 13, 2016, from NC STATE NEWS: https://news.ncsu.edu/2016/02/romo-weight-loss-2016/
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