Background

Patients who seek or undergo bariatric surgery are likely to experience pervasive societal biases surrounding weight (e.g., “anti-fat” stigma) and overeating behaviors, including binge-eating. A recent study supported the use of person-first obesity language among individuals seeking bariatric surgery; for example, patients were more likely to prefer “person with obesity” compared to “obese person.” Little is known about patient preferences for most acceptable terminology to discuss weight and binge-eating behaviors. This study surveyed a series of patients who had undergone bariatric surgery to indicate the desirability of different weight and binge-eating terms when speaking with health-care providers

Methods

Participants were 168 adults (82.7% female) who underwent bariatric surgery approximately 1.5-2 years prior and were in the follow-up stage of a controlled treatment trial testing behavioral treatments.

Results

Of the 11 terms used to describe weight, only two were viewed positively: weight and BMI. All other terms, including obesity, were rated negatively and many were rated extremely negatively. Fatness was the least desirable term. Of the 18 terms used to describe binge-eating, six were rated positively. On average, none of the weight or binge-eating terms was rated as “desirable” or “very desirable.” Analyses revealed several gender and racial differences in preferences for terminology.

Conclusions

Our findings suggest that many weight-related and binge-eating terms are viewed as undesirable. Health-care providers should replace undesirable terms with positive or neutral terms about weight and binge-eating when speaking with individuals before/after bariatric surgery as this may improve patient-centered care and reduce perceived weight bias