Dismantling weight stigma in eating disorder treatment: Next steps for the field

Mindy L. McEntee, Samantha R. Philip, Sean M. Phelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors posit current guidelines and treatment for eating disorders (EDs) fail to adequately address, and often perpetuate, weight stigma. The social devaluation and denigration of higher-weight individuals cuts across nearly every life domain and is associated with negative physiological and psychosocial outcomes, mirroring the harms attributed to weight itself. Maintaining focus on weight in ED treatment can intensify weight stigma among patients and providers, leading to increased internalization, shame, and poorer health outcomes. Stigma has been recognized as a fundamental cause of health inequities. With no clear evidence that the proposed mechanisms of ED treatment effectively address internalized weight bias and its association with disordered eating behavior, it is not hard to imagine that providers’ perpetuation of weight bias, however unintentional, may be a key contributor to the suboptimal response to ED treatment. Several reported examples of weight stigma in ED treatment are discussed to illustrate the pervasiveness and insidiousness of this problem. The authors contend weight management inherently perpetuates weight stigma and outline steps for researchers and providers to promote weight-inclusive care (targeting health behavior change rather than weight itself) as an alternative approach capable of addressing some of the many social injustices in the history of this field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1157594
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
StatePublished - 2023


  • atypical anorexia
  • binge eating
  • eating disorder treatment
  • eating disorders
  • health equity
  • weight bias
  • weight stigma
  • weight-inclusive care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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