Background: Weight-related stigma is reported frequently by higher body-weight patients in healthcare settings. Bariatric surgery triggers profound weight loss. This weight loss may therefore alleviate patients' experiences of weight-related stigma within healthcare settings. In non-clinical settings, weight-related stigma is associated with weight-inducing eating patterns. Dietary adherence is a major challenge after bariatric surgery.
Objectives: (1) Evaluate the relationship between weight-related stigma and post-surgical dietary adherence; (2) understand if weight loss reduces weight-related stigma, thereby improving post-surgical dietary adherence; and (3) explore provider and patient perspectives on adherence and stigma in healthcare settings.
Design: This mixed methods study contrasts survey responses from 300 postoperative bariatric patients with ethnographic data based on interviews with 35 patients and extensive multi-year participant-observation within a clinic setting. The survey measured experiences of weight-related stigma, including from healthcare professionals, on the Interpersonal Sources of Weight Stigma scale and internalized stigma based on the Weight Bias Internalization Scale. Dietary adherence measures included patient self-reports, non-disordered eating patterns reported on the Disordered Eating after Bariatric Surgery scale, and food frequencies. Regression was used to assess the relationships among post-surgical stigma, dietary adherence, and weight loss. Qualitative analyses consisted of thematic analysis.
Results: The quantitative data show that internalized stigma and general experiences of weight-related stigma predict worse dietary adherence, even after weight is lost. The qualitative data show patients did not generally recognize this connection, and health professionals explained it as poor patient compliance.
Conclusion: Reducing perceptions of weight-related stigma in healthcare settings and weight bias internalization could enhance dietary adherence, regardless of time since patient's weight-loss surgery.