Weight stigma and eating behaviors on a college campus: Are students immune to stigma's effects?

Alexandra Slade, Stephanie Brennhofer, Irene van Woerden, Meredith Bruening

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


College populations are groups of emerging adults undergoing significant transitions in eating and diet, being exposed to new social influences; many experience weight gain. Theoretically, college campuses should be places where weight stigma is evident and matters for dietary decision-making. We present the findings from two studies conducted within the same college population at a large public university, including anthropometric measures of body mass. Study 1 included two different measures of weight stigma (implicit and explicit) and measures of weight-control eating behaviors and fruit and vegetable consumption in a randomized representative sample of 204 students. Study 2 included a measure of weight responsibility and multiple measures of eating (food frequency, alcohol intake, and 24-hour dietary recalls), among freshman students (n = 202, n = 157 with 24-hour dietary recalls). Study 1 showed that the three types of stigmas were prevalent. Study 2 had a high prevalence of weight stigma attitudes and demonstrated the occurrence of unhealthful eating and binge drinking behaviors. Both studies found no relationship between weight stigma/responsibility and eating behaviors regardless of weight status. Beyond considering limitations of the study design, we propose two possible reasons for college students’ relative immunity to the effects of weight stigma. Those with very high levels of stigma could be suppressing stigmatizing attitudes based on what they think others think is acceptable in a liberal college setting, or the chaotic form of “normal” eating in this population hides the effects of weight stigma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-584
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine Reports
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • College students
  • Diet
  • Eating
  • Obesity
  • Stigma
  • Weight stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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