America's war on obesity has intensified stigmatization of overweight and obese individuals.
This experiment tested the prediction that exposure to weight-stigmatizing messages threatens the social identity of individuals who perceive themselves as overweight, depleting executive resources necessary for exercising self-control when presented with high calorie food.
Women were randomly assigned to read a news article about stigma faced by overweight individuals in the job market or a control article.
Exposure to weight-stigmatizing news articles caused self-perceived overweight women, but not women who did not perceive themselves as overweight, to consume more calories and feel less capable of controlling their eating than exposure to non-stigmatizing articles.
Weight-stigmatizing articles also increased concerns about being a target of stigma among both self-perceived overweight and non-overweight women.
Findings suggest that social messages targeted at combating obesity may have paradoxical and undesired effects.
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