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Anti-Fat and Pro-Thin: Identifying and Managing Professional's Implicit Biases

Saturday, March 25, 2017: 4:00 PM-5:00 PM
Del Mar II (Green Valley Ranch)

Background: This is a beginning to intermediate level workshop designed to help eating disorder professionals effectively identify and manage their biases about body size. Recognizing and regulating cognitive and emotional reactions to body size will help professionals more effectively establish a working relationship and achieve a positive treatment outcome.

Objectives: 1. ...what implicit biases are and how they are measured. 2. ...your degree of implicit bias related to body size. 3. ...strategies for managing existing biases.

  1. Overview of literature on implict and explicit biases in the healthcare professions
  2. Overview of reserach on the effect of these biases on patient care and outcomes
  3. Explanation of the Implicit Association Test (IAT)
  4. Administration of the paper and pencil version of the IAT
  5. Discussion of the results and what they mean for practitioners
  6. Identification of effective ways to manage one's implicit biases
  7. Concluding statements and Q&A

Weight stigma is often used by individuals as a tool to motivate overweight or obese individuals to lose weight. The belief that fat people need to lose weight and if they cannot they are lazy or unmotivated is so pervasive that some researchers have suggested that the belief gives tacit permission to hold a prejudice and to discriminate against people with larger bodies. Some people are well aware of their biases in this regard whereas others may believe they do not think badly about people who are overweight or obese. All health care professionals, even those who have devoted their lives to the care and treatment of patients dealing with food or eating related concerns, are susceptible to anti-fat bias. This bias has been documented in health care professionals as impeding on their ability to provide effective and evidence-based treatment.

Identifying and understanding our own biases as health care professionals can be difficult to do at best – especially those we do not believe we have. One of the most effective tools for capturing biases that may not be entirely obvious is the Implicit Association Test (IAT). The purpose of this workshop is to briefly review the evidence on anti-fat bias and the effects it can have on treatment delivery and patient trust in the healthcare system. Additionally, attendees will complete a paper and pencil version of the IAT to learn the degree to which they have an anti-fat bias. The workshop will also briefly review ways to manage existing biases in order to more effectively work with patients.

Primary Presenter:
Christine Selby, PhD, CEDS

Dr. Christine Selby has a PhD in Counseling Psychology and a Master's in Athletic Counseling. She is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Husson University and works part-time in her private practice, Selby Psychological Services. Dr. Selby works primarily with individuals dealing with eating disorders and has published articles and book chapters in the area of eating disorders and athletes. She is the author of "Chilling Out: The Psychology of Relaxation" and is working on two additional books in the areas of body image and eating disorders.

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