Internalised Weight Stigma Moderates the Impact of a Stigmatising Prime on Eating in the Absence of Hunger in Higher- but Not Lower-Weight Individuals

Angela Meadows, Suzanne Higgs

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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A considerable body of evidence links internalised weight stigma with higher levels of disordered eating behaviour and cognitions in both normative- and higher-weight populations. However, to date, the impact of internalised weight stigma on objectively measured food intake has not been explored. In the present study, a weight-diverse sample of 158 non-smoking adults (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2 n = 72, BMI < 25 kg/m2 n = 86) were recruited to a study on “The effects of hunger and satiety on information processing.” Participants first completed a series of online questionnaires, then attended a lab visit in a fed state. Participants were randomised to read a sham news article on the negative consequences of either weight (stigma condition) or smoking (control condition) and answer some questions about the article. Then, under the pretence of a non-study-relevant break, participants were exposed to a pre-weighed selection of sweet and savoury snacks for 15 min. Mood and hunger levels were assessed prior to and after reading the vignette, and after the break. In contrast to the relationship with self-report eating behaviour, internalised weight stigma was not a significant independent predictor of total energy intake and did not moderate the relationship between exposure to the stigma prime and calories consumed. However, differences emerged on the basis of participants’ weight status. Higher-weight participants with high levels of internalised weight stigma consumed fewer snack calories following exposure to a weight-stigma prime compared with a neutral prime (B = −137, SE = 58, t = −2.35, p = 0.020, 95% CI −252, −22) whereas those with low levels of internalised weight stigma tended to eat more in the weight stigma condition (B = 118, SE = 62, t = 1.91, p = 0.059, 95% CI −4, 241). In normative-weight participants, no differences in energy intake by levels of internalised weight stigma were observed. These findings suggest differences in the relationships between internalised weight stigma and self-reported disordered eating behaviour versus eating in the absence of hunger (EAH) measured under laboratory conditions. Additionally, internalised weight stigma appears to have differential effects on response to stigma in higher-weight and normative-weight individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1022
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberMAY
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2019


  • Eating behaviour
  • Eating in the absence of hunger
  • Internalised weight stigma
  • Self-stigma
  • Weight stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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