How To Lose Weight Bias Fast

Regular readers may recall a previous post showing that educating medical students on the complex nature of obesity, with a focus on genetics and biological determinants of ingestive behaviour, can reduce weight bias, whereas lecturing them about the benefits of diet and exercise serves to increase it.

A study by Phillippa Diedrichs and Fiona Kate Barlow from the University of Queensland, Australia, suggests that the same is true for psychology students.

In this paper, just published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, the researchers challenged undergraduate psychology students’ beliefs about the controllability of weight by presenting them with a lecture on obesity, weight bias, and the multiple determinants of weight.

Control groups consisted of lectures focusing on the behavioural determinants of weight (diet and exercise) or no lecture at all.

Beliefs about the controllability of weight and attitudes towards overweight and obese people were assessed 1 week pre-intervention, immediately post-intervention, and three weeks post-intervention showing that the students, who receive the intervention lecture were less likely to believe that weight is solely within individual control and were also less likely to hold negative attitudes towards overweight and obese people and rate them as unattractive.

In contrast, there were no such changes in the attitudes of the control or comparison groups.

To my knowledge, this is the second study demonstrating that education on obesity to budding health professionals should focus on promoting a better understanding of the complex environmental and biological determinants of body weight homeostasis rather than simply perpetuating ‘diet and exercise’ platitudes.

Not only is this closer to what we now understand about this complex condition but is also likely to reduce anti-weight bias and stereotypical beliefs amongst the next generations of health professionals.

Paris, France

Diedrichs PC, & Barlow FK (2011). How to lose weight bias fast! Evaluating a brief anti-weight bias intervention. British journal of health psychology, 16 (4), 846-61 PMID: 21988068