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Weight-based discrimination, body dissatisfaction and emotional eating: The role of perceived social consensus

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Objective: Discrimination can have a negative impact on psychological well-being, attitudes and behaviour. This research evaluates the impact of experiences of weight-based discrimination upon emotional eating and body dissatisfaction, and also explores whether people's beliefs about an ingroup's social consensus concerning how favourably overweight people are regarded can moderate the relationship between experiences of discrimination and negative eating and weight-related cognitions and behaviours. Research methods and procedures: 197 undergraduate students completed measures about their experiences of weight-based discrimination, emotional eating and body dissatisfaction. Participants also reported their beliefs concerning an ingroup's attitude towards overweight people. Results: Recollections of weight-based discrimination significantly contributed to emotional eating and body dissatisfaction. However, the relationships between experiencing discrimination and body dissatisfaction and emotional eating were weakest amongst participants who believed that the ingroup held a positive attitude towards overweight people. Discussion: Beliefs about ingroup social consensus concerning overweight people can influence the relationships between weight-based discrimination and emotional eating and body dissatisfaction. Changing group perceptions to perceive it to be unacceptable to discriminate against overweight people may help to protect victims of discrimination against the negative consequences of weight-based stigma.
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Keywords: body-dissatisfaction; discrimination; eating; ingroup social consensus; obese; overweight

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Leicestershire, UK 2: School of Psychology, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, UK

Publication date: November 1, 2009

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