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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?

1
Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Liverpool, Liverpool L69 7ZX, UK
2
School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK
3
School of Psychology, Newcastle University, Newcastle NE1 7RU, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2019, 11(9), 2100; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11092100
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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