It’s not only women who agonize over their excess pounds.
Stigma about being overweight can cause physical and emotional harm to men, too.
“It’s often assumed that conversations about weight loss, poor body image and dieting are more salient for women. Men are frequently overlooked, but that does not necessarily mean that men are less affected by weight stigma or less likely to internalize negative biases,” said Mary Himmelstein, lead author of a new study from the University of Connecticut, in Hartford.
As many as 40% of men report weight-related stigma, meaning they’re discriminated against or stereotyped because of their size.
But there’s been less research on how it affects their health compared to women, according to the researchers.
For the study, the investigators surveyed more than 1,750 men across the United States. The researchers found that weight-related stigma (both internalized and from other people) was associated with higher rates of depressive symptoms and dieting.
Men who experienced weight stigma were more likely to binge eat—and men who internalized weight stigma had lower self-rated health, the findings showed.
The study was published online recently in the journal Obesity.
The findings show the need for researchers and health care providers to pay more attention to weight stigma and health in men, Himmelstein and colleagues said in a university news release.
For example, asking men about weight stigma may help doctors identify those who may be at risk for depression or eating disorders—conditions that are underdiagnosed in men.
“Our study shows that weight stigma is not a gendered issue. It can affect men’s health in the same damaging ways in which we already know that it harms women’s health, and neglecting these issues in men, either in research or clinical practice, may put them at a serious disadvantage in treatment,” Himmelstein explained.
Supportive interventions should be available for men, women, and people whose gender is not male or female to help them cope with weight stigma in less harmful ways, she concluded.