Effects of a brief self-compassionate writing induction for adolescent girls' weight-stigmatizing experiences in physical activity


Adolescent girls disengage from physical activity at an earlier age and at a higher rate compared to adolescent boys. One reason for this gender disparity could be the higher rate of weight stigma that girls experience within physical activity settings. Intervention strategies that focus on cultivating self-compassion may help adolescent girls combat the negative effects of weight stigma on physical activity factors. This study examined the utility of applying a brief self-compassionate writing induction to a recalled weight-stigmatizing experience on adolescent girls' physical activity factors (e.g., enjoyment, intent to re-engage, identified, and external motivation for exercise). In a brief online experimental task, adolescent girls (Mage = 16.93, SD = 1.25) recalled a weight-stigmatizing experience that occurred in a physical activity setting and were then randomized to a self-compassionate (n = 98) or attentional-control (n = 99) condition. Compared to the attentional-control group, girls in the self-compassion condition reported more favourable physical activity outcomes (Wilk's ? = .935, F (4, 192) = 3.13, p = .012, partial ?2 = .065). Specifically, girls who responded to a recalled weight-stigmatizing experience in a self-compassionate way reported lower external motivation for exercise, but there were no significant effects on physical activity enjoyment, intent to re-engage, or identified motivation compared to the attentional-control group. As such, self-compassion writing interventions may be a promising strategy to reframe self-critical and judgemental thoughts towards the self after weight-stigmatizing events occur in physical activity settings.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)