— part of the Researchers Shaping The Future Series —
It’s my great pleasure to introduce…
I am a current PhD Student in Health Psychology and Trainee Health Psychologist at the University of Surrey researching Obesity, weight stigma and behaviour change.
Snapshot of Sarah-Jane’s Research
My research aims to re-think how we measure obesity stigma and investigate its impact.
Insights From Sarah-Jane
Elaine… While we were talking about your research at the Doctoral College’s recent public engagement event, your enthusiasm for what you are doing shone through. Please could you share why doing research in this area is important to you personally.
Sarah-Jane… To me, research is all about pushing boundaries in new directions and challenging perspectives, whilst also being accessible. I always said that if I ended up working in research that I wanted to try and do just that!
An increasing body of research is documenting the experiences and impact of obesity stigma (aka ‘fat shaming’). As a highly emotionally-charged topic, we all have an opinion on what causes obesity and how we can best treat it. The impact that this has on the increasing prevalence of obesity and health-related consequences is what interests me. Around 2/3 of the population now estimated to be overweight or obese and wider costs to society to be around £27billion each year.
Therefore, as a research topic I feel it holds potential to make a real-world contribution and also facilitates important discussions surrounding the nature of weight stigma and the impact it has.
Elaine… Moving from the personal to the bigger picture. What difference do you believe your research could make and to whom. In other words, why does your research matter?
Sarah-Jane… I am passionate about my research predominantly because it is actually relatable and holds the potential to impact everybody! Why? Because we all have a physical body, taking form of all shapes and sizes – and we all have thoughts about it (the good, the bad… and the ugly).
Obesity stigma is currently measured in a variety of ways. However, so far my research shows that we are not measuring obesity stigma accurately, and instead are confounding it with some of the evidenced causes and consequences of obesity.
Consequently, we cannot truly comprehend the impact it is having. Understanding this distinction between what is and what is not obesity stigma is important because it will shape the ways in which we both support those feeling stigmatised due to their body-weight, and also influence how we educate wider society on both the prevention and management of obesity.