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Food Addiction: Implications for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Overeating
Open AccessArticle

Obesity Stigma: Is the ‘Food Addiction’ Label Feeding the Problem?

Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 2100;
Received: 25 July 2019 / Revised: 27 August 2019 / Accepted: 30 August 2019 / Published: 4 September 2019
Obesity is often attributed to an addiction to high-calorie foods. However, the effect of “food addiction” explanations on weight-related stigma remains unclear. In two online studies, participants (n = 439, n = 523, respectively, recruited from separate samples) read a vignette about a target female who was described as ‘very overweight’. Participants were randomly allocated to one of three conditions which differed in the information provided in the vignette: (1) in the “medical condition”, the target had been diagnosed with food addiction by her doctor; (2) in the “self-diagnosed condition”, the target believed herself to be a food addict; (3) in the control condition, there was no reference to food addiction. Participants then completed questionnaires measuring target-specific stigma (i.e., stigma towards the female described in the vignette), general stigma towards obesity (both studies), addiction-like eating behavior and causal beliefs about addiction (Study 2 only). In Study 1, participants in the medical and self-diagnosed food addiction conditions demonstrated greater target-specific stigma relative to the control condition. In Study 2, participants in the medical condition had greater target-specific stigma than the control condition but only those with low levels of addiction-like eating behavior. There was no effect of condition on general weight-based stigma in either study. These findings suggest that the food addiction label may increase stigmatizing attitudes towards a person with obesity, particularly within individuals with low levels of addiction-like eating behavior. View Full-Text
Keywords: food addiction; obesity; stigma; eating behavior; attitudes food addiction; obesity; stigma; eating behavior; attitudes
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Ruddock, H.K.; Orwin, M.; Boyland, E.J.; Evans, E.H.; Hardman, C.A. Obesity Stigma: Is the ‘Food Addiction’ Label Feeding the Problem? Nutrients 2019, 11, 2100.

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