Thin vs. Fat Bias

I received my Strengths-Based Family Workers (SFW) Credential in 2018 and while receiving my certification, I was asked to, “identify a bias you have,” for an assignment. Immediately, I thought of bias towards other ethnicities. I knew that although I am a black woman, I carried some bias against different ethnicities because of how I have seen black and brown people being treated by non-BIPOC individuals.

Outside of ethnicity it was difficult for me to think of any biases that I had because I saw myself as accepting of everyone.

Photo by Houcine Ncib

IAT: Thin vs. Fat

When searching bias on the web I stumbled upon Project Implicit. Founded in 1998, “Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaboration between researchers who are interested in implicit social cognition – thoughts and feelings outside of conscious awareness and control. The goal of the organization is to educate the public about hidden biases and to provide a ‘virtual laboratory’ for collecting data on the Internet. Studies at Project Implicit examine your ideas, beliefs, and opinions about different topics.”


Project Implicit provides various tests that allow you to determine your own hidden biases. I thought it would be interesting to complete multiple Implicit Association Test (IAT), which “categorized good and bad words with images.” Some of the tests determine a preference for young vs. old, racial preferences, gender preferences, and many more. “Project Implicit also provides consulting services, lectures, and workshops on implicit bias, diversity and inclusion, leadership, applying science to practice, and innovation.” Project Implicit

One of the tests I decided to complete was based on determining the preference people have for thin vs. fat. After completing the online test, which “measures the strength of associations between concepts,” Project Implicit I received the results of having a strong automatic preference for thin people over fat people. My results confused and upset me. How could I possess this bias? I have been overweight since high school, currently I am over 200 lbs. at 5’6 and definitely have never been called thin.

I have always believed that if equality was the most important aspect of society, we would all thrive as people. But, was I practicing what I preach? (obviously not!) And yet, in my heart, I do still believe that we all should treat our differences equally, no matter your race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation… but what about weight? I became so upset with myself (and the test). I was being categorized with the statistic of people who, often times, behave differently toward thin people compared to fat people.


Photo Provided by Project Implicit 

“It is well-established that implicit preferences can affect behavior. Implicit preferences have been shown to be related to discrimination in hiring and promotion, medical treatment, and decisions related to criminal justice.” (Project Implicit)

(Have I been discriminating against people who are overweight, just like I am?)

A BIAS Reasoning Revelation

I have always had an array of friends; all different genders, races, and different sizes. But this test states that I could have a negative depiction of those considered overweight because, if I have a strong automatic preference for thin people, not a slight preference, this must mean that I am displaying this bias throughout my interactions. (But, how did I develop this bias? ) 

Sadly, thin people having a strong automatic preference for thin people, over fat people, would be obvious, but when fat people have a strong automatic preference for thin people, over fat people, it shows that there is obviously an external/environmental influence to consider.

Popular culture, displayed through the media, i.e. magazine covers, billboards, music videos, models, commercials and ads, etc., all depict, thin men and women, as having the most popularity, power, and influence.

Being thin, somehow means being happy and successful. This has caused those who are overweight, to dislike their own cohort.

When I go shopping in the Plus size section, of every store, it makes me feel bad about myself, every time. I don’t necessarily feel bad about my jean size, I feel badly because of the limited options I have, compared to being a Juniors size. It makes you feel like an outcast and less fashionable. Your size should not matter, but somehow, I feel less-than, when buying clothing.

As someone who would be considered “fat,” here are some of the stereotypes associated with being overweight:

  • Unhealthy
  • Sloppy
  • Heavy eater
  • Dirty
  • Stinky
  • Not fashionable
  • Always hungry
  • Sad

In my heart, I believe that the widespread cultural preference for being a skinny girl is wrong, and it causes those that are bigger to feel unaccepted and less-confident. When you are not confident,  you are less likely to pursue your goals and dreams. (Please check out my post Beauty is…)

So how can I fix this?

According to Project Implicit, “there is not enough research to say for sure that implicit biases can be reduced, let alone eliminated.”

Are these ideas so ingrained inside me, that I have no way to reverse this bias?

I think, firstly, I need to address my own insecurities. Being overweight is something that I have battling since high school, now as a 27-year-old mother, I need to find the confidence within myself to see my weight as beautiful. I feel that if I see myself as beautiful with the baby-weight, I will be able to see all those who are overweight as beautiful as well and I will diminish my strong automatic preference for thin people over fat people.

One positive characteristic of being my size is that I feel my curves are beautiful! I have them, and even when I am getting down on myself for gaining weight and not working out like I should, I still know that I am beautiful because I think that curves are beautiful. We have to find the strength in those areas that seem to be hopeless.

I am always uplifting women to feel good about themselves, myself included, because the media is constantly making the minority (if you are not a white, male, Christian, heterosexual, who is thin, I am talking to you) feel less-than. I am able to view the positive characteristics because I value equality and I feel that no matter what is on the outside, the most important factor of a person is the internal beauty.

Critical reflection is something that I consider essential to growing as an individual. It is a value for me to always try to be a better person every day. Now that I am aware of my strong automatic preference for thin people over fat people, I plan to look at my verbal and non-verbal communication with people and determine if their weight is the reasoning for the way I am carrying out the interaction.

If I do find that I am displaying preference, through my verbal and non-verbal communication with people because of their weight, I plan to adjust the way I am interacting through self-reflection. I think practicing positive affirmations with myself will help because, obviously, I have a preference against my own weight class.

Project Implicit encourages “not to focus on strategies for reducing bias, but to focus instead on strategies that deny implicit biases the chance to operate, such as blind auditions and well-designed ‘structured’ decision processes.”

I believe true growth starts within!

I have to love myself before I can love someone else.

We can be so mean to ourselves, and yet be so uplifting for others.

Uplifting myself is the first step toward reversing this preference.

I believe that knowledge is power and responsibility, and by taking the IAT, I was challenged to face my bias against being overweight.

Holding myself accountable and recognizing that it is wrong to treat people differently based on any difference, is most important.

Women of all shapes and sizes are beautiful. We must stand together and support one another.

Ask yourself,  could you have this BIAS?

For more information on Project Implicit and how to participate and determine your implicit associations, please visit their site HERE .

8 thoughts on “Thin vs. Fat Bias

  1. What a thought provoking entry! I wonder which I am. I’ll admit that I used to be a very thin female, but have battled my curves since having children. I am not sure where my bias would lay now. I know before I would have definitely leaned toward fellow thin people. I know through the years I have filtered and altered my thoughts regarding weight.. I just spent a week on a beach not only empowered with my curves, but I made a point to smile at and compliment my fellow women of all shapes, ages and sizes on how beautiful they looked. My husband thought I was being a bit much, but I disagree. We live in times where we need to empower each other. Whoops….this got long! Great post!

    1. That is exactly what we as women need to do. Step up and go against what popular culture says we should be. I love that you did that and i am sure it made them feel amazing! Thank you for reading I really appreciate it

  2. This is probably a bias I have – but it is also something I am conscious of and working to fix. I think that’s all you can do with biases is be aware of them so you can fix them. But I’m not sure I would have thought of a thin vs fat bias in relation to other people (as opposed to myself) without your post! Thanks for writing!

    1. Thank you so much for reading. It was so hard for me to accept this bias, because I am a thick girl….you know? Thats how you know popular culture and the media play major roles in effecting how we see ourselves. It is sad, but you are right, it is something that we have to keep working on, and the first step for me was to blog all about it.

  3. Wow, this is really interesting and brings to light implicit or subconscious biases in my own life that I don’t really realize are there on a day to day basis… so thank you for sharing! 👍🏻

    1. Of course….It was an eye opening experience and really made me think about how I view myself and how that effects the way I treat other. Thank you for reading!!!!!!!

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