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This study explored weight bias amongst Australian Accredited Practising Dietitians (APDs) and the effect of client weight status on dietetic practice.
Participants were 201 APDs, recruited using purposive sampling. A self-administered questionnaire, the fat phobia scale (FPS), was completed to assess explicit weight bias. Participants were then randomized to receive either a female within the healthy weight range or female with obesity, accompanied by an identical case study for a condition unrelated to weight. Participants assessed the client based on data provided, provided recommendations and rated their perception of the client.
Mean FPS scores indicated mild fat phobia. However, dietetic practice was significantly affected by the client's weight status. Dietitians presented with the female with obesity assessed the client to have significantly lower health and were more likely to provide unsolicited weight management recommendations. In addition, dietitians rated the client as less receptive, less motivated and as having a lower ability to understand and sustain recommendations.
The contribution of this study is the exploration of how weight status may impact dietetic practice including assessment, recommendations and perceptions of the client. Dietitians may practice in a manner that represents or could be perceived as negative implicit weight bias, despite the explicit FPS assessing only mild fat phobia. Further research to understand the extent of the problem and how it impacts client outcomes and to test possible solutions is required.
This document has been peer reviewed.