American Samoans Can't Stand Fatsos; Negative Attitude Toward Chubsters Going Global, ASU Study Finds

Hatin' on fatsos isn't just for Westerners anymore -- a study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University shows that negative attitudes toward the overweight is going global.

According to a cross-cultural study of attitudes toward obesity -- to be published in the April issue of Current Anthropology -- the overall attitude toward the obese is becoming increasingly negative, even in places where at one time being bulky was considered attractive.

The study surveyed people in Mexico, Argentina, Paraguay, the United States, and Great Britain. It also took a look at people in American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and Tanzania -- cultures that have traditionally been pro-fatso.

The surveyors asked respondents if they agreed with statements like "fat people are lazy," and even fat-friendly comments like "a big woman is a beautiful woman."

According to ASU researchers, the results suggest a rapid "'globalization of fat stigma' in which overweight people are increasingly viewed as ugly, undesirable, lazy, or lacking in self control."

"Previously, a wide range of ethnographic studies have shown that many human societies preferred larger, plumper bodies," says Dr. Alexandra Brewis, a biological anthropologist and one of the study's authors. "Plump bodies represented success, generosity, fertility, wealth, and beauty."

What proved shocking to researchers is that the most negative fat stigma scores weren't in the U.S. or Great Britain, but rather in places like Mexico, Paraguay, and "most surprisingly" in American Samoa.

"When I was doing research in the Samoas in the 1990s, we found people starting to take on thinner body ideals, but they didn't yet have discrediting ideas about large bodies," Brewis says. "But that appears to be changing very quickly."

So thin is in -- even in American Samoa.

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James King
Contact: James King