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Quantifying or Contributing to Antifat Attitudes?

posted on 2023-05-22, 19:15 authored by Cain, P, Ngaire DonaghueNgaire Donaghue, Ditchburn, G

Suppose you are a researcher and you want to develop and conduct an intervention designed to reduce negative attitudes toward fat people. Before you start, there will be decisions to make: What type of intervention is best? Who will participate? How many participants do I need? Will I have a control group? How will I demonstrate success? This last decision typically involves selecting a means of measurement. So, as an astute researcher, you turn to a selection of antifat attitude measures recommended and endorsed by other academics (Lee, Ata & Brannick, 2014; Morrison, Roddy & Ryan, 2009; UConn Rudd Centre for Food Policy and Obesity, 2015). When reading through this selection, you are struck by the following items: “Jokes about fat people are funny” (Lewis, Cash, Jacoby & Bubb-Lewis, 1995); “Fat people have bad hygiene” (Latner, O’Brien, Durso, Brinkman, & MacDonald, 2008); “Obese people should not expect to live normal lives” (Allison, Bastile, & Yuker, 1991); “It is disgusting when a fat person wears a bathing suit at the beach” (Morrison & O’Connor, 1999); and “Although some fat people are surely smart, in general, I think they are not quite as bright as normal weight people”(Crandall, 1994). At this point you start to wonder, what are these measures actually doing? Quantifying antifat attitudes or contributing to them?

In this chapter, we review key measures of antifat attitudes and examine the assumptions, meaning, and content evident within. We assess the depth and breadth of item content to establish the overall scope of measures and identify where and how these instruments focus attention on problematic representations of fatness and fat people. In doing this we work to highlight how the current approach almost completely overlooks the work that has been done by fat activists and scholars in the field of Fat Studies, as well as how the growing complexity and nuance with which fatness is beginning to be treated in (some) mainstream social discourse (Cain, Donaghue & Ditchburn, 2017) is overlooked. We seek to expose the limitations within this field of research and highlight the need for future strategies that not only honor all bodies but also reflect the colorful and complex landscape of fat discourse.


Publication title

The Routledge International Handbook of Fat Studies


C Pause and SR Taylor






School of Humanities



Place of publication




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Copyright 2021 Routledge

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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified