According to preliminary research, to be presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2021 , women are more likely than men to report feeling stigmatized by belly fat , regardless of their body mass index.
The study also reports that internalized weight stigma among women may be related to additional weight gain. Internalization of weight bias occurs when people apply negative stereotypes based on weight.
Weight for them, height for them
The study evaluated the connection between abdominal or visceral fat and participants’ weight-related self-devaluation. Visceral adiposity is fat within the body that wraps around the abdominal organs near the center of the body. In the words of the study’s lead author, Natalie Keirns , a clinical psychology doctoral candidate at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma:
Some people who struggle to control their weight may devalue themselves based on external messages from society that tell them that they are unattractive, self-indulgent, or weak-willed because they weigh more. When these ‘anti-fat’ messages are internalized, people often feel ashamed, which in turn, can make them vulnerable to weight gain.
For this study, Keirns and his colleagues investigated whether internalized weight stigma is related to higher levels of visceral fat. The study included 70 participants, ages 22 to 39, with an average body mass index (BMI) of 29 and an average of 33% total body fat. Internalized weight stigma was measured using an 11-item self-reported questionnaire called Weight-Bias Internalized Scale-Modified (WBIS-M).
Although men generally had more of this damaging fat on average than women, we did not see the same relationship to psychological and social stigma. For women, the way we view our bodies and the way others view and judge our bodies seem to have negative effects.
According to the researchers, this is the first study to suggest that women with higher levels of internalization of weight bias are more likely to accumulate more visceral fat . But if women have a problem with weight, in the case of men the problem seems to be centered on height, which causes that there is even a deep salary gap in this regard, as you can see in the following video: