Weight Stigma and Anti-Discrimination Law: Examining Attitudes Towards Weight as a Protected Class

Eating disorders and disordered weight control behaviours present a significant threat to the health of adolescents and adults, yet they remain largely overlooked by public health and preventive medicine professionals. Weight stigma harms health through increasing eating disorder risk and disordered weight control behaviours, and also harms social and economic opportunities. However, despite widespread weight discrimination in the U.S., there are virtually no legal protections for individuals who experience weight discrimination.

Applying the anti-stigma principle (Solanke 2017), this project will aim to identify a pathway towards successful legal protections for weight discrimination could help alleviate weight stigma at a societal level and serve as an important tool for preventing eating disorders. It proposes a mixed methods study, using both qualitative interviews and quantitative experiments, to find out what key implementation strategies may be necessary for protective legislation and to identify optimal language and framing for such legislation.

The project is part of the wider Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders (STRIPED), launched in July 2009, based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital. Its goal is to build a transdisciplinary training initiative that will generate professionals with the depth and range of expertise and skills needed to take on the challenge of eating disorders prevention.

Project website