INVESTIGATING THE ROLE OF WEIGHT STIGMA, BODY MASS INDEX, AND SEX ON BODY PROJECTS

Open Access
Author:
Espinosa, Mariana
Area of Honors:
Biobehavioral Health
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Joshua Morrison Smyth, Thesis Supervisor
  • Helen Marie Kamens, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • Body Projects
  • Weight Stigma
  • Body Mass Index
  • Sex Differences
  • Body Dissatisfaction
  • Obesity
Abstract:
It is believed that weight stigma, the social devaluation and negative stereotyping of overweight individuals, is broadly related to both psychological (e.g. depression, body image distress, lower levels of self-esteem) and behavioral (e.g. binge eating, exercise avoidance) outcomes (Puhl & Brownell, 2006). The purpose of this study is to examine a specific behavioral outcome, the urge to physically alter one’s body, in the context of overweight or obese persons’ experience of weight stigma. Previous studies on body projects (e.g. attempts to construct and maintain a coherent and viable sense of self-identity through attention to the body’s surface) have revealed that females participate in efforts to change their bodies more often than males (Featherstone, Hepworth & Turner, 1991). As many body projects today revolve around the urgency to achieve skinniness, this study seeks to better understand how weight stigma impacts this phenomenon. As part of a larger study, 48 participants expressively wrote about their weight-related experiences over the course of the previous seven days. This data was then transcribed and coded to understand the frequency and nature of body projects. Hypotheses tests (e.g. chi-square and ANOVA) were conducted in order to analyze the relationship between weight stigma, biological sex, BMI, and body projects. This study revealed that, according to a framework derived from Brumberg (1997), females are significantly more likely to physically alter their bodies than males. No significant relationships between BMI and body projects, or weight stigma and body projects were found. This research is important because it sets the foundation for future health promotion campaigns that address obesity whilst promoting body positivity.