How Weight Stigma Impacts Education, Employment and Healthcare

Welcome to day 2 of Weight Stigma Awareness Week 2019! I am super passionate about this topic and have enjoyed creating content to share that will spill over into the upcoming weeks. Yesterday I mentioned some places where health stigma is alive and well in our society. As a reminder, I mentioned how it impacts the messages in our media, how we define health and wellness, the fitness industry, the clothing industry, public transportation, general public settings, employment and education, and the healthcare industry.

Today I would like to share some statistics regarding weight stigma in some of these settings and the harm it is causing. Before we begin:

*Trigger warning: Some of these statics use the word “O” word to describe individuals. Please note that this is not a word that I support but is often used in research. If this bothers you, I trust you to do what’s best self-care practice for you in regards to reading on.*

*Reminder: The use of the word “FAT” is used in a neutral manner and is not meant to cause harm to individuals. It is used as a descriptor like I would use the words “short”, “tall”, or “skinny.” Check out yesterday’s post on “What is Weight Stigma and Why Should I care” to learn more about my use of this word. *

Identifying Weight Stigma in Education:

-In comparison to thin or normal-weight peers, teachers believe fat students to be messy, extremely emotional, less likely to excel at school work, and more likely to have problems at home. (Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Harris T.)

-43% of teachers agree that “most people are uncomfortable when they associate with obese people” (Price JH, Desmond SM, Stelzer CM.)

-50% of principals believe that fatness occurs based on a lack of self-control and psychological problems.

Identifying Weight Stigma in Employment:

-When compared to thin job applicants who have similar qualifications, fat applicants are viewed negatively and less likely to be hired. (Pingitore R, Dugoni BL, Tindale RS, Spring B., 1994)

-43% of fat people report that they have experienced weight bias from employers and supervisors (Rudd Center For Food Policy and Obesity)

-Fat people are paid $1.25 less an hour than their thin counterparts (ASDAH)

Identifying Weight Stigma in Healthcare from Physicians:

-“Obese” patients as lazy, sloppy, awkward, unattractive, non-compliant

-“Obesity” is a behavior problem that is perpetuated by lack of will power caused by overeating

-1 in 3 doctors associates fat bodies with hostility, dishonesty and poor hygiene (Klein D, Najman J, Kohrman AF, Munro C.)

-Spend less time, engage in less discussion, are reluctant to perform preventive health screenings, and do fewer interventions with “Overweight” patients (Bertakis KD, Azari R.)

Unfortunately, these are just a few of the many beliefs of weight stigma influencing education, employment, and health care. These beliefs cause children from getting inequal education opportunities due to size. Qualified applicants may be less likely to get hired or paid the same as thin counterparts due to their size. Weight stigma in healthcare prevents individuals in larger bodies from getting adequate and necessary care. Many individuals in larger bodies put off preventative screenings due to fear of stigma from their providers. Additionally, they are often misdiagnosed by being prescribed weight loss instead of the underlying condition. If you are an individual in a larger body and prescribed weight loss by a provider to fix a health concern, I encourage you to ask your provider ‘’If a person in a smaller body came in with these same complaints, what would you recommend as a treatment plan for them?” as a way to adequately address your concerns.



ASDAH. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Bertakis KD, Azari R. The impact of obesity on primary care visits. Obes Res 2005;13(9):1615-23.

Klein D, Najman J, Kohrman AF, Munro C. Patient characteristics that elicit negative responses from family physicians. J Fam Pract 1982;14(5):881-8.

Pingitore R, Dugoni BL, Tindale RS, Spring B. Bias against overweight job applicants in simulated employment interview. J Appl Psychol 1994;79 (6):909-17.) 

Price JH, Desmond SM, Stelzer CM. Elementary school principals’ perceptions of childhood obesity. J Sch Health 1987;57(9):367-70.)

Neumark-Sztainer D, Story M, Harris T. Beliefs and attitudes about obesity among teachers and school health care providers working with adolescents. J Nutr Educ 1999;31(1):3-9.

Retrieved from

Katie Hill Stewart MA, LPC, LCPCWelcome! My name is Katie Hill Stewart; I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) practicing north of Kansas City in Liberty, Missouri. My mission is providing support to adults struggling with disordered eating, body image issues, trauma, anxiety and depression.