Cultural Change and Explicit Anti-fat Attitudes in a Developing Nation: A Case Study in Rural Dominica


  • Sarah Krebs Council Washington State University
  • Caitlyn Placek Washington State University


anti-fat attitudes, fat stigma, development, social media, Facebook, Dominica


Research has demonstrated the negative effects of social stigma on overweight and obese individuals. Beyond a burgeoning obesity epidemic, there appears to be a globalization of negative attitudes towards obesity. This study examined anti-fat attitudes among women from the Common wealth of Dominica using a standardized psychometric scale - the Attitudes Towards Obese Persons Scale (ATOP). We examined the impact of education level, body mass index, measures of development, and media usage on perceptions of obesity. Results demonstrated that rural Dominican women have high levels of anti-fat attitudes that are trending with developing and industrialized nations. The presence of a Facebook account was significantly associated with ATOP scores. There were significant interaction effects among Facebook account and age, as well as Facebook account and garden work. These findings suggest that online social networking increases anti-fat attitudes among women who are young and non-traditional.

Author Biographies

Sarah Krebs Council, Washington State University

PhD Candidate Department of Anthropology Washington State University

Caitlyn Placek, Washington State University

PhD Candidate Department of Anthropology Washington State University


Crandall CS, Schiffhauer KL. Anti-Fat Prejudice: Beliefs, Values, and American Culture. Obes Res. 1998;6(6):458–460.

Puhl R, Brownell KD. Bias, discrimination, and obesity. Obes Res. 2001;9(12):788–805.

Sobal J. The Medicalization and Demedicalization of Obesity. In: Eating Agendas: Food and Nutrition as Social Problems.; 1995.

Brown PJ, Konner M. An anthropological perspective on obesity. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1987;499:29–46.

Brown PJ. Culture and the evolution of obesity. Hum Nat. 1991;2(1):31–57.

Sobal J, Stunkard AJ. Socioeconomic status and obesity: a review of the literature. Psychol Bull. 1989;105(2):260–75.

Sobo E. One Blood: The Jamaican Body. Albany: State University of New York Press; 1993.

Brewis AA, Wutich A, Falletta-Cowden A, Rodriguez-Soto I. Body Norms and Fat Stigma in Global Perspective. Curr Anthropol. 2011;52(2):269–276.

Goffman E. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall; 1963.

Carr D, Friedman MA. Is Obesity Stigmatizing? Body Weight , Perceived Discrimination , and Psychologicl Well-being in the U.S. J Health Soc Behav. 2005;46(3):244–259.

Larkin JC, Pines HA. No Fat Persons Need Apply: Experimental Studies of the Overweight Stereotype and Hiring Preference. Work Occup. 1979;6(3):312–327.

Burmeister J. Weight bias in graduate school admissions. Obesity. 2013;21(5):918–920.

Canning H, Mayer J. Obesity - its possible effect on college acceptance. N Engl J Med. 1966;275(21):1172–1174.

Karris L. Prejudice against obese renters. J Soc Psychol. 1977;101(1):159–160.

Sabin JA, Marini M, Nosek BA. Implicit and explicit anti-fat bias among a large sample of medical doctors by BMI, race/ethnicity and gender. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48448.

Schwartz MB, Chambliss HO, Brownell KD, Blair SN, Billington C. Weight bias among health professionals specializing in obesity. Obes Res. 2003;11(9):1033–9.

Teachman BA, Brownell KD. Implicit anti-fat bias among health professionals: is anyone immune? Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2001;25(10):1525–31.

Puhl RM, Heuer CA. The stigma of obesity: a review and update. Obesity. 2009;17(5):941–64.

Annis NM, Cash TF, Hrabosky JI. Body image and psychosocial differences among stable average weight, currently overweight, and formerly overweight women: the role of stigmatizing experiences. Body Image. 2004;1(2):155–67.

Brewis AA, Hruschka DJ, Wutich A. Vulnerability to fat-stigma in women’s everyday relationships. Soc Sci Med. 2011;73(4):491–7.

Latner JD, Rosewall JK, Simmonds MB. Childhood obesity stigma: association with television, videogame, and magazine exposure. Body Image. 2007;4(2):147–55.

Ginsburg F, Abu-Lughod L, Larkin B. Introduction. In: Ginsburg F, Abu-Lughod L, Larkin B, eds. Media Worlds: Anthropology in new terrain. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2003.

Spitulnik D. Anthropology and Mass Media. Annu Rev Anthropol. 1993;22:293–315.

Grabe S, Ward LM, Hyde JS. The role of the media in body image concerns among women: a meta-analysis of experimental and correlational studies. Psychol Bull. 2008;134(3):460–76.

Bordo S. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of Arizona Press; 1993.

Fedorak SA. Anthropology Matters. University of Toronto Press; 2012:236.

Rubinstein S, Caballero B. Is Miss America an Undernourished Role Model. J Am Med Assoc. 2000;283(12):1563–1569.

Slevec J, Tiggemann M. Media Exposure, Body Dissatisfaction, and Disordered Eating in Middle-aged Women: A Test of the Sociocultural Model of Disordered Eating. Psychol Women Q. 2011;35(4):617–627.

Becker AE. Television, Disordered Eating, and Young Women in Fiji: Negotiating Body Image and Identity during Rapid Social Change. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2004;28(4):533–559.

Tull ES, Butler C, Wickramasuriya T, et al. Should body size preference be a target of health promotion efforts to address the epidemic of obesity in Afro-Caribbean women? Ethn Dis. 2001;4(11):652–660.

Quinlan M, Hansen J. Introduction of Television and Dominican Youth. In: Hewlett BL, ed. Adolescent Identity: Evolutionary, Developmental and Cultural Perspectives. New York: Taylor & Francis/Routledge; 2013.

Miller D, Slater D. The Internet: an ethnographic approach. Oxford: Berg; 2000.

Bair CE, Kelly NR, Serdar KL, Mazzeo SE. Does the Internet function like magazines? An exploration of image-focused media, eating pathology, and body dissatisfaction. Eat Behav. 2012;13(4):398–401.

Tiggemann M, Miller J. The Internet and Adolescent Girls’ Weight Satisfaction and Drive for Thinness. Sex Roles. 2010;63(1-2):79–90.

Haifa U of. Facebook users more prone to developing eating disorders, study finds. Sci Dly. 2011. Available at:

Hansson LM, Rasmussen F. Attitudes towards obesity in the Swedish general population: The role of one’s own body size, weight satisfaction, and controllability beliefs about obesity. Body Image. 2014;11(1):43–50.

Hanneman RA, Riddle M. Introduction to Social Networks Methods. Riverside, CA: University of California, Riverside; 2005.

Cramer P, Steinwert T. Thin is good, fat is bad: How early does it begin? J Appl Dev Psychol. 1998;19(3):429–451.

Latner JD, Stunkard AJ, Wilson GT. Social and Behavioral Stigmatized Students: Age, Sex, and Ethnicity Effects in the Stigmatization of Obesity. Obes Res. 2005;13(7):1226–1231.

Schwartz MB, Vartanian LR, Nosek BA, Brownell KD. The influence of one’s own body weight on implicit and explicit anti-fat bias. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2006;14(3):440–7.

Hilbert A, Rief W, Braehler E. Stigmatizing attitudes toward obesity in a representative population-based sample. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16(7):1529–34.

Sikorski C, Luppa M, Kaiser M, et al. The stigma of obesity in the general public and its implications for public health - a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2011;11(1):661.

Popkin BM, Gordon-Larsen P. The nutrition transition: worldwide obesity dynamics and their determinants. Int J Obes. 2004;28(3):S2–9.

Popkin BM, Doak CM. The Obesity Epidemic Is a Worldwide Phenomenon. Nutr Rev. 1998;56(4):106–114.

Orgnanization PAH. Protocol for the Nutritional Management of Obesity, Diabetes and Hypertension in the Caribbean.; 2004.

Sobal J. Obesity and socioeconomic status: a framework for examining relationships between physical and social variables. Med Anthropol. 1991;13(3):231–47.

Mendez MA, Monteiro CA, Popkin BM. Overweight exceeds underweight among women in most developing countries. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005;81(3):714–21.

Anderson-fye EP. Never Leave Yourself: Ethnopsychology as Mediator of Psychological Globalization among Belizean Schoolgirls. 2003;31(1):77–112.

Sobo EJ. Sweetness of Fat: Health, Procreation, and Sociability in Rural Jamaica. In: Sault N, ed. Many Mirrors: Body Image and Social Relations. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press; 1994.

Simeon DT, Rattan RD, Panchoo K, Kungeesingh K V, Ali AC, Abdool PS. Body image of adolescents in a multi-ethnic Caribbean population. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2003;57(1):157–62.

Allison DB, Basile VC, Yuker HE. The Measurement of Attitudes Toward and Beliefs About Obese Persons. Int J Eat Disord. 1991;10(5):599–607.

Quinlan R. Kinship, Gender, and Migration from Rural Dominica. Migr Lett. 2005;2(1):2–12.

Quinlan RJ. Gender and Risk in a Matrifocal Caribbean Community: A View from Behavioral Ecology. Am Anthropol. 2006;108(3):464–479.

Central Statistical Office. Dominica Population and Housing Census. 2011.

Quinlan MB. From the Bush: The Front Line of Health Care in a Caribbean Village (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2004.

Quinlan RJ. Extrinsic Mortality Effects on Reproductive Strategies in a Caribbean Community. Hum Nat. 2010;21(2):124–139.

Quinlan MB, Quinlan RJ. Modernization and Medical Plant Knowledge in a Caribbean Horticultural Village. Med Anthropol Q. 2007;21(2):169–192.

Pena M, Bacallao J. Obesity Among The Poor: An Emerging Problem In Latin America and the Caribbean. Obes Poverty A New Public Heal Challange. 2004;1(1):3–10.

Friedman KE, Reichmann SK, Costanzo PR, Zelli A, Ashmore JA, Musante GJ. Weight stigmatization and ideological beliefs: relation to psychological functioning in obese adults. Obes Res. 2005;13(5):907–16.

Brewis AA, Wutich A. Explicit versus implicit fat-stigma. Am J Hum Biol. 2012;24(3):332–338.

Martorell R. Obesity in the developing world. In: Caballero B, Popkin BM, eds. The Nutrition Transition: Diet and Disease in the Developing World. London, UK: Elsevier Ltd; 2002.

Placek CD, Quinlan RJ. Adolescent fertility and risky environments: a population-level perspective across the lifespan. Proc Biol Sci. 2012;279(1744):4003–8.

Anderson-Fye EP. A “Coca-Cola” Shape: Cultural Change, Body Image, and Eating Disorders in San Andres, Belize. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2004;28(4):561–595.

Bargh JA, McKenna KYA. The internet and social life. Annu Rev Psychol. 2004;55:573–90.

McNab C. What social media offers to health professionals and citizens. Bull World Health Organ. 2009;87(8):566.

Wilson RE, Gosling SD, Graham LT. A Review of Facebook Research in the Social Sciences. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2012;7(3):203–220.

Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, et al. Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults. PLoS One. 2013;8(8):e69841.

Eckler P, Kalyango Jr. Y, Paasch E. Facebook and College Women’s Bodies: Social Media's Influence on Body Image and Disordered Eating. In: Interntional Communication Association 64th Annual Conference: Communication and the “Good” Life.; 2014.

Tiggemann M, Slater A. NetGirls: the Internet, Facebook, and body image concern in adolescent girls. Int J Eat Disord. 2013;46(6):630–3.

López-Guimerà G, Levine MP, Sánchez-carracedo D, Fauquet J. Influence of Mass Media on Body Image and Eating Disordered Attitudes and Behaviors in Females: A Review of Effects and Processes. Media Psychol. 2010;13(4):387–416.

Baglar R. “Oh God, save us from sugar”: an ethnographic exploration of diabetes mellitus in the United Arab Emirates. Med Anthropol. 2013;32(2):109–25.






Original Research