Understanding weight stigmatization: A focus group study

Nicole H.F. Cossrow, Robert W Jeffery, Maureen T. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Objective: The purpose of this research was to investigate, in a nonclinical sample of adults, thoughts on and experiences with weight stigmatization. Design: Focus groups were used to collect information. Participants were recruited through a newspaper advertisement and flyers posted in public places in Minneapolis and St. Paul. During the focus groups, participants were led in a discussion about their thoughts on weight stigmatization and personal experiences of being treated differently or poorly because of their weight. Subjects: Six gender-specific focus groups consisted of 31 adult volunteers (17 women and 14 men). Variable Measured: Perceptions of weight-based stereotypes and weight stigmatization and personal reports of having been treated differently or poorly owing to weight were measured. Results: Participants reported a variety of experiences of being treated differently or poorly because of their weight. These included teasing, harassment, slurs and insults, negative judgments and assumptions, and perceived discrimination. Participants reported that such experiences occurred at home, among friends and strangers, at work, and in health care settings. Women reported a greater number and a greater variety of negative experiences than men. Implications: The results indicated that participants experienced weight-based stigmatization in many aspects of their lives. Awareness of these experiences may assist in the development of treatments for overweight individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-214
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition Education and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Adults
  • Discrimination
  • Focus groups
  • Obesity
  • Overweight
  • Prejudice
  • Stereotype
  • Weight stigmatization

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