Weight stigma facilitates unhealthy eating and weight gain via fear of fat.

Across two studies, we examined whether the relationships among perceived weight stigma, maladaptive eating behaviors (Study 1 & 2), and weight gain (Study 2) were mediated by fear of fat (FOF). In Study 1, 189 participants completed measures of eating behavior (e.g., emotional and restrained eating), FOF, perceived weight stigma, and height and weight. In Study 2, a longitudinal design, participants reported their perceived weight stigma and FOF and had their height and weight measured; they then returned 10 weeks later to complete measures of eating behaviors (i.e., flexible restraint, riged restraint, and emotional eating) and have height and weight measured. We examined the predictive value of weight stigma at Session 1 on eating behavior and on weight gain at Session 2. Furthermore, we examined FOF as a mediator of these relationships. In Study 1, we found that FOF significantly mediated the positive relationship between perceived weight stigma and restrained eating behavior (b = .13, confidence interval [CI] [.09, .19]). In Study 2, we found that perceived weight stigma predicted weight gain over the 10-week period and that this relationship was mediated by both FOF (b = .31, CI [.03, .78]) and rigid restraint of eating (b = .07, CI [.002, .28]). Flexible restraint and emotional eating behavior were not mediators of the relationship between perceived weight stigma and weight gain. Fear of fat may be one process through which perceptions of weight stigma lead to maladaptive eating behavior and weight gain. Understanding this important process may lead to more effective healthy weight interventions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)