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2023 Working Papers

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1352 - Obesity Stigma : Causes, Consequences, and Potential Solutions

Thijs van Rens, Petra Hanson, Oyinlola Oyebode, Lukasz Walasek, Thomas M Barber and Lena Al-Khudairy

This review aims to examine (i) the aetiology of obesity ; (ii) how and why a perception of personal responsibility for obesity so dominantly frames this condition and how this mindset leads to stigma ; (iii) the consequences of obesity stigma for people living with obesity, and for the public support for interventions to prevent and manage this condition ; and (iv) potential strategies to diminish our focus on personal responsibility for the development of obesity, to enable a reduction of obesity stigma, and to move towards effective interventions to prevent and manage obesity within the population. Recent Findings We summarise literature which shows that obesity stems from a complex interplay of genetic and environment factors most of which are outside an individual’s control. Despite this, evidence of obesity stigmatisation remains abundant throughout areas of media, entertainment, social media and the internet, advertising, news outlets, and the political and public health landscape. This has damaging consequences including psychological, physical, and socioeconomic harm. Summary Obesity stigma does not prevent obesity. A combined, concerted, and sustained effort from multiple stakeholders and key decision-makers within society is required to dispel myths around personal responsibility for body weight, and to foster more empathy for people living in larger bodies. This also sets the scene for more effective policies and interventions, targeting the social and environmental drivers of health, to ultimately improve population health.

1446 - Healthy diets, lifestyle changes and well-being during and after lockdown: longitudinal evidence from the West Midlands

Thijs van Rens, Petra Hanson, Oyinlola Oyebode, Lukasz Walasek, Thomas M Barber and Lena Al-Khudairy

Lockdowns’ to control the spread of COVID-19 in the UK affected many aspects of life and may have adversely affected diets. We aimed to examine (1) the effect of lockdowns on fruit and vegetable consumption, as a proxy for healthy diets more generally, and on weight and well-being, (2) whether any subgroup was particularly affected and (3) the barriers and facilitators to a healthy diet in lockdown. We find no evidence for decreased fruit and vegetable consumption during lockdown compared with afterwards. If anything, consumption increased by half a portion daily among women, particularly among those who normally have a long commute. This finding, combined with a significant increase in physical activity, suggests that behaviours were healthier during lockdown, consistent with higher self-reported health. However, well-being deteriorated markedly, and participants reported being heavier during the lockdown as well. Our qualitative data suggest that an abundance of resources (more time) supported higher fruit and vegetable consumption during lockdown, despite increased access issues. Our results may assuage concerns that lockdowns adversely affected diets. They may point to the impact of commuting on diet, particularly for women. We add longitudinal evidence to a growing body of literature on the adverse effect of lockdown on mental health.