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Making snacking less sinful: (Counter-)moralizing obesity in the public discourse differentially affects food choices of individuals with high and low perceived body mass

Mulder, L., Rupp, D. & Dijkstra, A., 1-Feb-2015, In : Psychology & Health. 30, 2, p. 233-251 19 p.

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  • Making snacking less sinful: (Counter-)moralising obesity in the public discourse differentially affects food choices of individuals with high and low perceived body mass

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DOI

Objective: As public discourse surrounding obesity highlights the societal costs of obesity and individual's own responsibility for their weight, being overweight is often framed as immoral. Such 'moralizing' messages about being overweight may be a psychological threat for those with high body mass. Attempting to counter-moralise the public discourse (i.e. actively arguing that there is nothing 'immoral' about being overweight) may relieve this threat, inducing people, especially those with higher (perceived) weight, to engage in healthier behaviours.

Method: Two experiments were performed among Dutch and US participants. (Counter-)moralisation was manipulated. Body mass and weight-related self-perceptions were measured. The dependent variable was healthy vs. unhealthy snack choice.

Results: (Counter-)moralisation and (perceived) overweight jointly predicted snack choice: counter-moralising messages induced healthy snacking, but only among those who regarded themselves to have a high body mass.

Conclusions: The effects of moralising vs. counter-moralising obesity depended on one's (perceived) overweight. This suggests that, for people with relatively high weight, the current moralising public discourse on obesity works in counterproductive ways. Campaigns that 'counter-moralize' obesity (i.e. that refute moralising messages) are more productive, although they should be tailored to those who see themselves as being overweight.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-251
Number of pages19
JournalPsychology & Health
Volume30
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1-Feb-2015

    Keywords

  • public discourse, overweight, eating, body weight, health behaviour, moralisation, obesity, WEIGHT-GAIN, SELF-DETERMINATION, PHYSICAL-ACTIVITY, HEALTH, NORMS, OVERWEIGHT, MORALIZATION, MORALITY, DISGUST, STIGMA

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