A mere anticipation of rejection for a date can lead to lower self-esteem among the heavier people, especially women, and increase their stress levels, warns a new study.
The same conditions, however, do not seem to apply to thin women or heavier men, the study suggested.
The researchers set out to examine how the anticipation of rejection – versus the actual experience of it – impacts an individual’s emotional well-being. They found rejection and devaluation due to one’s weight can lead to negative health consequences
“We experimentally tested whether the mere anticipation of rejection among heavier individuals is enough to lead to downstream negative psychological effects such as decreased self-esteem or feelings of self-consciousness,” said Alison Blodorn from University of California, Santa Barbara in the US.
The team recruited 160 men and women of various body weights, aged 18 to 29, and identified as heterosexuals.
Young adults were asked to give a five-minute speech describing why they would make a good dating partner and were told the speech would be evaluated by an attractive member of the opposite sex.
“Heavier women – or those with a higher BMI – who thought their weight would be seen expected to be rejected by their evaluator. This anticipated rejection led to lower self-esteem, greater feelings of self-consciousness and greater stress,” Blodorn added.
The same conditions that were detrimental to heavier women had the opposite effect for thinner women who saw their weight as an asset, the authors noted.
The results differed for men. “Interestingly, we didn’t see any of the same negative effects for heavier men,” Blodorn noted.
This experiment suggests — for heavier women — that direct experiences with negative weight-based treatment are not necessary for weight stigma to have negative effects.
“Given that weight bias is so pervasive in our society, these findings have huge implications for the psychological well-being of heavier women,” Blodorn stated.