Preliminary research on self-compassion as a target for reducing forms of bias is promising, yet healthcare provider self-compassion has not yet been explored in relationship to weight bias. Healthcare providers commonly endorse weight stigma and bias, contributing to health disparities for patients with “obesity.” The current study explores the feasibility of the self-compassion loving kindness meditation (LKM) as a brief intervention that reduces weight bias in nursing students.
Participants (189 nursing students) were randomly assigned to the LKM condition or body scan control condition before engaging in an implicit bias task and answering self-report measures of internalization of the thin ideal, weight bias, positive attitudes towards people with “obesity,” positive emotions, self-compassion, cognitive flexibility, and compassionate care.
Statistically significant differences in self-compassion, cognitive flexibility, weight bias, and compassionate care failed to be found between the groups. Participants in the LKM condition endorsed significantly higher levels of positive emotionality compared to the control condition. Higher levels of self-compassion were related to lower levels of weight bias for participants in both conditions. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that internalization of the thin ideal and self-compassion accounted for 19.2% of the variance in positive attitudes towards people with “obesity.”
This study suggests the importance of examining self- and other-compassion in the context of weight stigma. Its findings exemplify the complexity of weight stigma and the need to further explore the mechanisms to be targeted to effectively reduce healthcare professionals’ bias.
This study is not preregistered.