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Fat Bias: Prejudice Starts Early

Fat Bias: Prejudice Starts Early
Laughing. Whispering. Pointing. These behaviors are very familiar if you grew up with a more cuddly body type than your classmates.

When did this fat bias start?

A recent study by Duke University investigated the effects of culture media on children’s health. Our culture gives us biases that we don’t even realize we have. Researchers uncovered unconscious biases in the study, finding kids nine to eleven years old already developed a preference to be friends with other kids who were thin.

There was already evidence that those who had excess weight felt stigmatized by others. It was surprising for the researchers to find the bias had taken root in children so young.

The media definitely has a hand in the development of these biases. However, home life has a strong influence. Every time Mommy says she needs to drop a few pounds a certain body ideal is reinforced. Commentary about obese people in the world informs kids that "thin is in."

Fat shaming people in society to encourage your children to adopt a healthy lifestyle can backfire. The stress and shame of disappointing an influential adult can lead to comfort eating and the development of eating disorders.

It’s important to try to improve healthy behaviors in children, promoting their health and well-being as they grow older. Equally important, it has to be done gently so these kids don’t struggle with psychological and social issues resulting from being overweight.

Listen as Dr. Asheley Skinner joins Dr. Pamela Peeke to share the findings from the study.


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Featured Speaker:
Asheley Skinner, PhD
Dr. Asheley SkinnerAsheley Cockrell Skinner, PhD, is a health services researcher and is currently an Associate Professor of Population Health Sciences at Duke University, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute.

She is a nationally-known expert in childhood obesity, focusing on the measurement of obesity, the health consequences of obesity, and preventing stigma in obesity interventions and policy.