An estimated 40 percent of men feel judged for their weight, either being too skinny or obese, according to new research that focuses on an area typically observed in women.
“Understanding the ways in which weight stigma is experienced in men is essential for creating effective weight stigma reduction interventions,” wrote the researchers, who published their findings in the journal Obesity on Tuesday.
Looking at the challenges and setbacks men face in how they view their own weight and are perceived by society can improve obesity-related interventions and help reduce harmful health consequences, the authors wrote.
In a survey of over 1,500 men, researchers from the University of Connecticut found key differences in how men and women perceive their weight, with women believing they are overweight at a lower BMI than even clinical guidelines and men believing they are overweight at a higher BMI.
“Among men, self-perception of weight (e.g., perceiving oneself with overweight or obesity) predicts increased reports of weight-based discrimination,” they wrote.
Overall, men who experienced weight stigma were younger and had lower incomes but higher levels of education. Other factors included that men who reported weight stigma were less likely to be married, less likely to identify as Asian or Hispanic/Latino, relative to identifying as white.
The sample size consisted of three groups of men: a small group part of the Obesity Action Coalition, involved with advocacy and who are obese themselves; a small sample from a select online cohort; and a large national online survey.
The results, that 40 percent of men experienced weight bias, were consistent with other studies on women, suggesting that men and women experience weight stigma similarly.
A key difference, however, is that weight stigma for women is linear — they experience more as their weight increases. Men however, experience bias in an inverted-U, the researchers wrote, with experiences of teasing and unfair treatment occurring if they are too thin or too heavy.
“Supporting men and helping them adopt effective coping strategies to deal with experienced weight stigma may help buffer against otherwise adverse health behaviors or outcomes that can arise from weight stigma,” the researchers wrote.