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Study Suggests Most Dietitians Stereotype The Obese

dietitian with patientYou would like to think that when people sign up to be a dietitian, they not only have their future clients’ best interests in mind, but that they have a positive outlook. But according to a new study, only two percent of people training to be dietitians have positive – or even neutral – attitudes toward people who are obese.

Um, two percent?

Most of the nearly 200 dietetic students from the study had a negative view about the attractiveness, self-control, overeating, insecurity, and self-esteem of obese people. They also rated obese patients as less likely than non-obese patients to comply with treatment recommendations.

“I think a better understanding and appreciation of the complexities and difficulties of weight loss are needed to reduce the stigma,” said Rebecca Puhl, the study’s lead author and the director of research and stigma initiatives at Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Dr. Nicholas H.E. Mezitis, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and nutrition at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, disputes the validity of the study, stating that there was too little representation of other ethnic groups outside of white females.

The study recommends adding stigma reduction to the standard curriculum for dietetics programs.

Let me play a little devil’s advocate here. Let’s say for argument’s sake that Dr. Mezitis is wrong and that the study does reveal that dietitians-in-training are representative of society as a whole and have negative views of obese people. Not that it’s a good thing, but will it ultimately significantly hinder their ability to treat and give optimal advice to those people? You’d just have to believe that dietitians wouldn’t take it to the point of openly berating people. That’s not expecting much.

(via: Yahoo News)

March 12th, 2009