What Predicts Anti-Fat Bias

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Oscar Wilde is crediting with the saying, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” This helpful advice frequently comes to mind when I wrestle with whether I should get the second helping of meat loaf or the slightly larger slice of pecan pie. 

The focus on portion size and eating is relevant, given the anti-fat bias that exists in different contexts. In the US, this form of bias has increased over the past several decades. 

Recognizing this trend, Roni Elran-Barak and Yoav Bar-Anan, of the University of Haifa and University of Negev, respectively, examined different ways in which anti-fat bias can manifest. 

The focused on two types of bias. The first is explicit, which people deliberately maintain and express. The second is implicit, which is an unconscious form of bias which can be expressed among otherwise well-meaning individuals. 

They analyzed data from over 60,000 people and observed an interesting pattern of results. 

First, men expressed greater anti-fat bias than did women, and this was true for both types of bias. Men also had better images of their own body than did women. 

Further results showed that as people’s body mass index decreased, their bias increased. This was true for both types of bias. 

Connections also mattered. People who identified with overweight people were unlikely to express bias. On the other hand, study participants who believed that weight is important or that people prefer thin people were likely to express bias.

Based on these findings, the authors pointed to several bias reduction approaches. First, increase connection and identification with people who are overweight. Second, reduce the importance people place on weight in their everyday lives. 

I would add a third: have the second helping of meat loaf. Remember, everything in moderation, including moderation.