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The relationship between internalized stigma and binge eating behavior among overweight women

14 December 1998


Society stigmatizes overweight people. Overweight women with binge eating disorder (BED), appear to be especially vulnerable to the impact of societal stigmatization. This study uses Heatherton and Polivy's (1992) spiral model, which emphasizes the roles of self-esteem and body dissatisfaction, as the basis of understanding the development of binge eating pathology in overweight women. It proposes modifYing this model by exploring whether internalized stigma toward overweight people increases body dissatisfaction, diminishes self-esteem, and increases binge eating among overweight women. This study examines the relationships among internalized stigma, self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and binge eating behavior. One-hundred-eleven women volunteered to participate in this study. Twenty-five participants were recruited from a group responding to an advertisement for a binge eating/weight loss group. Twenty-one overweight and sixty-five normal weight women were recruited from nonclinical settings. Participants completed measures of binge eating severity, Binge Eating Scale (BES); selfesteem, Rosenberg Self-esteem (RSE); body dissatisfaction, Eating Disorders InventoryBody Dissatisfaction Scale; and internalized stigma, Attitudes Toward Obese Persons (ATOP), Beliefs About Obese Persons (BAOP), Goldfarb Fear of Fat Scale (GFFS), and the Social Attitudes Towards Appearance Questionnaire (SATAQ). Correlational, ANOV A, and regression analyses of the data were conducted. Results support the use of the spiral model for understanding binge eating among overweight women. Binge eating was found to relate to self-esteem, body dissatisfaction, and internalized stigma. Internalized stigma correlated with self-esteem in all groups and with body dissatisfaction in the normal weight, but not in the overweight group. Among the measures of internalized stigma, the GFFS was the most potent predictor of binge eating severity. The various measures of internalized stigma are discussed in terms of their validity for overweight vs. normal weight groups. The findings suggest the need for BED treatment and prevention programs to include positive body image and se1f..esteem building components.


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