The fat acceptance (FA) movement aims to counteract weight stigma and discrimination against individuals who are overweight/obese. We developed a supervised neural network model to classify sentiment toward the FA movement in tweets and identify links between FA sentiment and various Twitter user characteristics. We collected any tweet containing either “fat acceptance” or “#fatacceptance” from 2010–2019 and obtained 48,974 unique tweets. We independently labeled 2000 of them and implemented/trained an Average stochastic gradient descent Weight-Dropped Long Short-Term Memory (AWD-LSTM) neural network that incorporates transfer learning from language modeling to automatically identify each tweet’s stance toward the FA movement. Our model achieved nearly 80% average precision and recall in classifying “supporting” and “opposing” tweets. Applying this model to the complete dataset, we observed that the majority of tweets at the beginning of the last decade supported FA, but sentiment trended downward until 2016, when support was at its lowest. Overall, public sentiment is negative across Twitter. Users who tweet more about FA or use FA-related hashtags are more supportive than general users. Our findings reveal both challenges to and strengths of the modern FA movement, with implications for those who wish to reduce societal weight stigma.

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Published in Health Informatics Journal, v. 28, issue 1.

© The Author(s) 2022

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).

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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: RK’s effort has been funded by the U.S. National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences via grant UL1TR001998 and the U.S. National Cancer Institute via grant R21CA218231.