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Monday
Apr042011

Study: 'Fat Stigma' Expanding Across Foreign Countries

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Emulating American culture definitely has its drawbacks, especially when people from other countries start packing on the pounds.

While the U.S. is still one of the world leaders in overweight and obese citizens, our foreign friends seem intent on catching up.  That's led to another change outside our borders and it has to do with the stigmatization of fat people, according to Arizona State University anthropologist Dr. Alexandra Brewis.

There was a time when foreigners viewed plump people as symbols of “success, generosity, fertility, wealth, and beauty.”  But after doing research in nine diverse locations, Brewis contends the “globalization of fat stigma” is expanding like wildfire.

Researchers interviewed residents of Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, the U.S., the U.K., American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Tanzania, and found that they’ve adopted a Western way of looking at obesity -- that is, they’re now attaching negative connotations to being fat.

For instance, more people than not agreed with judgmental statements such as “fat people are lazy.”  Curiously, American Samoans held the most strident opinions about those who are overweight when less than 20 years ago, they were more accepting of overweight people.

Brewis and her team didn’t look for reasons leading to these attitude changes, although “new forms of educational media including public health campaign” are believed to have contributed to the phenomenon.

She added that, in addition to obesity leading to health problems, there are also worries about the psychological toll fat people face when confronted with new prejudices.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio