Does presenting obesity as a disease or food addiction reduce stigma and increase support for approaches addressing obesity amongst fitness practitioners? (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Science
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsSpeirs, Danshow all
The present study examined the effects of presenting the etiology of obesity as a food addiction, disease, or ‘traditional’ caloric imbalance on anti-fat attitudes (AFA), and support for approaches addressing obesity in a cohort of fitness practitioners. The approaches included the direct allocation of time in the form of personal training (PT) sessions and support for policy initiatives at a societal level. Fitness practitioners were chosen as they represent a vocation seen to be increasingly important for addressing the escalating prevalence of obesity. Concerns have been raised that high levels of AFA may exist within this cohort, however, which may limit the effectiveness of weight-loss interventions. Practitioners (n = 249) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions and asked to read a short article describing obesity as either a food addiction, disease, or caloric imbalance. A control group read an unrelated article about sales techniques. Measures of AFA, allocation of PT sessions, and support for obesity-related policy initiatives were then completed. Practitioners from the food addiction condition recorded significantly lower AFA than practitioners from the disease condition on measures relating to belief in the controllability of bodyweight. Practitioners in the food addiction condition showed significantly stronger support than practitioners in the control condition for policies advocating for the subsidisation of active obesity treatments such as PT. Practitioners in the food addiction condition also showed significantly stronger support than practitioners in the traditional condition for a policy requiring foods high in added sugar and fat to be treated in the same regulatory way as tobacco. No differences were found between the experimental conditions for the allocation of PT sessions. The study concluded that presenting the etiology of obesity as a food addiction may be more effective at reducing obesity stigma than the disease etiology, and more effective at building support for policies aimed at ameliorating obesity rates than the traditional obesity etiology or a control group.