“Negative Things That Kids Should Never Have to Hear”: Exploring Women’s Histories of Weight Stigma in Physical Activity

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • | 2 King’s College London, London, United Kingdom
  • | 3 Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  • | 4 School of Kinesiology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
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Scholars have proposed that cumulative experiences of anti-fat bias and stigma contribute to detrimental physical activity experiences, as well as social and health inequities. The objective of this research was to explore how enacted weight stigma experiences are constructed and impact women’s physical activity experiences long term. Eighteen women who identified as having had negative experiences related to their body weight, shape, or size in physical activity contexts participated in semistructured interviews. Using reflexive thematic analysis, four themes were identified: (a) norms of body belonging, (b) distancing from an active identity, (c) at war with the body, and (d) acts of resistance. These findings deepen understandings of how historical experiences of weight stigma can have longstanding consequences on physical activity cognitions, emotions, and behaviors. To equitably promote physical activity, it is imperative that movement spaces (e.g., fitness centers, sport organizations) both target anti-fat stigma and adopt weight-inclusive principles.

Pila (epila@uwo.ca) is corresponding author, https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5175-4329.

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