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Rates of obesity and overweight are ballooning globally: the World Health Organization recently estimated 1 in 3 adults to be overweight, and the rates are rising especially fast in many developing nations. In many developed countries, including the U.S., the rate is closer to 2 in 3 adults being overweight or obese. Despite now being the most common body type in many places, there is also evidence that the stigma related to obesity is in fact growing. This stigma can be profound and powerful, undermining mental health and overall life chances, as well as weight loss efforts.

Small World/Big Bodies is a multi-year and multi-sited project using tools from anthropology, human biology and psychology to understand how and why attitudes toward overweight and obese bodies are changing globally in the contexts of both the obesity “epidemic” and an increasingly globalized world. We are especially interested in understanding how and why negative attitudes to obesity are spreading so rapidly, but also why this stigma appears so much more damaging in some places than others.