Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity

Weight Stigma Coping Tactics Affect Health

A new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut shows that how people cope with being mistreated because of weight can affect their health.

The study, published online in Health Psychology, found that coping with the experience of being teased or bullied because of weight by engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors (like exercise or eating healthy foods) was associated with better health, including better physical and psychological well-being and less frequent depressive symptoms. Responding to weight stigma with negative emotions and maladaptive eating (such as starving, bingeing, or purging) was linked with more depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and worse physical and emotional health.

Considerable evidence had previously linked the experience of weight stigma to poor health. Yet few studies had explored how individuals cope with mistreatment because of their weight, or the role that their coping responses may play in health outcomes. Doctors should offer support and positive coping strategies, the study authors say.