In a recent study through the University of Hawaii, researchers found that people were more likely to view a woman differently if they were told she had lost 70 pounds or more, as opposed to women who maintained the same weight (May 30th, Dr. Bonnie Eaker Weil says that in light of this news, it’s important to recognize people who struggle with this discrimination have trouble with self-perception. “They still see themselves as fat when they’re thin. If they’re still seeing that in themselves, it’s easy to project that so other people pick up on it,” she explains.


The study, published May 29th, also reveals that women who may have been overweight when they were younger have a hard time identifying themselves as thin if they grow into their weight as an adult. “In society, people tend to subscribe to the idea that ‘a leopard can’t change its spots,'” observes Dr. Bonnie. “But that’s not true – it is certainly possible to change negative perception and behaviors.”

Dr. Bonnie – who helps those facing addiction, sexual infidelity, and self-perception issues – says people should use the data from this study as a jumping off point to be conscious of their perception of others. She says change needs to come from two places.


  • Change comes from the person who incorrectly perceives themselves as obese. It can be difficult, especially if a person has been overweight for many years, to get used to a new reality, Dr. Bonnie explains. “In these cases, the person needs to look at themselves with a new face, to see themselves for who they really are. And then to convey that to other people.”


She encourages women with a mis-perception of their body image to affirm the change they’ve made – whether that be recognizing the ability to fit into their favorite jeans, or their ability to run and play with their kids. “If that is a long time coming,” suggests Dr. Bonnie, “I encourage women to ‘fake it till they make it.’ Believe the best about themselves, even if they really don’t. Eventually that will start to be true.”


  • Change comes from society. As the study reveals, ‘fat bias’ is prevalent and, the study author says, weight isn’t necessarily completely associated with willpower and healthful eating. Dr. Bonnie says that as a society, it’s important to recognize not everyone’s weight issues are cut-and-dried. “I encourage my patients to learn how to see themselves accurately, and to present that to the world. But the world needs to overcome their bias as well, in order to see these people as vibrant, contributing members of society.”


For further help on this, check out Dr. Bonnie’s book Make Up Don’t Break Up – she encourages people struggling with their weight to make up with their self image, not break up with it! To see Dr. Bonnie talk about healthful habits, click here:

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