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University of Oregon researchers create fat acceptance workshop

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(The Center Square) – University of Oregon researchers developed a workshop to reduce weight bias in the workplace, according to the school.

“Weight-based discrimination, negative and unfair treatment of people with larger bodies, is common,” a release said.”Yet there is a lack of research on broad-scale strategies to reduce it,” it added.

The journal Evaluation and Program Planning recently published the findings of the University of Oregon study.

Almost 100 people at the University of Oregon participated in a three-hour remote training. The training used already-existing technology at the university to “deliver professional development content,” the release said.

“Participants felt the training aligned with the university’s goal to create more inclusive workspaces and provided a missing piece in the conversation about discrimination and inclusivity,” Nichole Kelly, first author and Evergreen Associate Professor in counseling psychology and human services in the UO College of Education, said in the release.

The study’s results found a major reduction in explicit biases. Those are “biases an individual is aware of,” the release said. It found a similar result for implicit biases, “or those people aren’t aware of,” the release said.

It also found a decrease in participants thinking of themselves with negative stereotypes, which the release called “weight bias internalization.”

“That finding is especially important because internalizing these biases is most closely linked to poorer mental and physical health,” Kelly said.

The researchers’ next step involves conducting a clinical trial to confirm that positive effects are attributed to their training. Then, they want to tailor the material based on the needs of different employers.

“There’s great potential to expand this work to many employers,” Kelly said. “Any employer that cares about creating inclusive spaces and supporting employee health and well-being has incentive to add this type of training to their professional development offerings.”

About half of overweight and obese adults recruited for a national weight-loss support group reported they faced weight discrimination from co-workers; 43% said they faced it from their supervisors, the release said.

No federal law prevents weight discrimination in the United States, but Michigan and over half a dozen cities, including San Francisco and Washington, D.C., have such protections in place.

From December 2020 to May 2021, 94 participants attended six sessions. These sessions featured slides, workbooks, personal reflections, and small and large group discussions.

The researchers will keep providing the training remotely since study participants preferred that format, which offered body anonymity.

Obesity is on the rise in the United States. Over 40% of American adults are obese, and from 2021 to 2022, the number of states where at least 35% of adults are obese increased from 16 to 19, according to Trust for America’s Health. Obesity increases one’s risk of many serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and liver disease, among others, according to the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.

The research received funding from a Faculty Research Award and the Challenge Fund from the UO Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

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