Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Department

Biology

Second Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Cotter, David

Keywords

weight bias, stigma, obesity, bariatric surgery, weight loss

Abstract

Despite the fact that the majority of adults living in the United States are overweight or obese, obesity remains a highly stigmatized physical condition. Society often sees obesity as a physical manifestation of personal faults such as the lack of self-control and laziness. Obese individuals thus experience discrimination in places of employment, have lower educational attainment, are underrepresented in popular culture, and often have difficulty finding and sustaining intimate relationships. For individuals with extreme obesity (BMI greater than 40), bariatric surgery is the most effective strategy to improve health and lose weight. Individuals who have undergone bariatric surgery typically experience significant weight loss. Such individuals have experienced extreme obesity, have lost weight, and have lived experiences at a more socially and medically acceptable BMI. As such, this population can speak to both social conditions and are in a prime position to speak to the stigma associated with the obese condition.

In this study, surveys and interviews were conducted with patients who had undergone bariatric surgery at Ellis Hospital. The survey was designed to measure internalized (self) stigma due to obesity, as well as experienced stigma, before and after bariatric surgery and subsequent weight loss. During individual interviews patients spoke anecdotally about experienced stigma and how their lives changed after bariatric surgery. Qualitatively, patients felt that bariatric surgery positively impacted their lives and improved their physical and psychological health. Quantitative survey data indicated that patients demonstrated less self-stigma and experienced less stigma due to obesity after bariatric surgery.

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