A pilot study to objectively examine the impact of weight stigma on diet, physical activity and sleep

Obesity is one of society’s greatest challenges with 2/3rds of UK adults being overweight or obese. Reduced food intake, increased physical activity and improved sleep are key health behaviours in tackling obesity (1) is experienced by 54% of adults and deters individuals from engaging in healthy behaviours targeted in obesity-interventions (2).

Identifying the impact of weight stigma on health behaviours is important to inform the development of obesity and weight stigma-reducing interventions.

The problem the project is  addressing is that existing evidence linking weight stigma to health behaviours and obesity is limited to subjective reporting of health behaviours (e.g. participants self-reported diet and physical activity), which are prone to error (3). Objective assessments of health behaviours occurring in response to weight stigma are needed. (4)

A second problem the project is addressing is no research has assessed the effects of weight stigma on sleep. This is important because insufficient sleep is associated with obesity risk (5).  It is possible that weight stigma reduces sleep duration and quality due to increased stress (6), but this hypothesis remains untested.

An innovative multidisciplinary team has formed to conduct this project which aims to establish how weight stigma influences health behaviours.

Lead Academic at Lead University

Nicola Buckland, University of Sheffield

Lead Academics at other Universities

Mark Hopkins, University of Leeds

Scott Cairney, University of York

Other academics associated with this project

Sheffield: Asha Akram, Department of Psychology (AA); Sam Caton, Public Health (SC_S), Bernard Corfe (BC), Oncology and Metabolism

Leeds: Cristiana Duarte, School of Psychology (CD)

York: Marcus Harrington, Department of Psychology (MH_Y)

External advisory panel: Rebecca Pearl, University of Pennsylvania (US), Department of Psychiatry (RP) (leading researcher in weight stigma)

Zest Community Centre, Sheffield, UK


(1) NICE, 2014; Wu et al., 2014

(2) Nolan, 2016

(3) McClung et al., 2018

(4) Pearl, 2018

(5) Wu et al., 2014

(6)  Tomiyama 2018

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