Today is world obesity day.
We live in a world where ‘obesity’ is seen as a bad thing, a disease and a problem to be fixed.
There is so much stigma associated with larger bodies.
The data on weight stigma is truly astonishing—weight discrimination is on the rise, increasing by 66% over the past decade (Puhl & Heuer, 2010).
Weight bias disproportionately affects women, and was found to be more common than age and gender discrimination in employment settings.
There is a common misconception that stigma might help motivate people with obesity to lose weight and improve their health. This misconception is inaccurate – discrimination can have the opposite effect.
Weight stigma stands in the way of people accessing treatment. Larger people intentionally skip annual physical exams in order to avoid shaming at the doctor’s office (Drury & Louis, 2002).
And if people in larger bodies do go to see the doctor, the doctor spends about 28% less time with larger people (Phelan et al, 2015). And surgery is often withheld until larger people lose weight.
The belief that a fat person eats more calories is often one reason that weight stigma exists, yet multiple studies have also shown that people experiencing weight-based stigmatisation consume more calories (Schvey, Puhl, & Brownell, 2011; Major et al, 2014).
It also decreases motivation to care for one’s self i.e. eating well and exercising (Schvey et al., 2011 & Puhl & Heuer, 2010 & Puhl, Moss-Racusin & Schwartz, 2007 & Van de Berg & Neumark-Sztainer, 2007).
Weight stigmas leads to serious health consequences such as elevated blood pressure, unhealthy weight control and binge eating behaviours, bulimic symptoms, negative body image, low self-esteem, and depression among children, adolescents and adults (Tylka et al, 2014).
Weight stigma clearly impacts a person’s quality of life.
If we continue to be overly concerned about our bodies or wait for them to be in the form we deem worthy of our dreams, we may find ourselves living lives rooted more in shame than worthiness, and never pursue the things that really matter to us.
Poor body image leading to poor health behaviours along with weight stigma leading to poor health behaviours is a real thing.
What are some things we can do to end weight stigma?
- Stop talking about other people’s bodies, either with judgment or aspiration.
- Begin to follow people on social media who support body acceptance, are body positive, and who are bravely sharing their body as it is, without apology.
- Do not seek healing and treatment for disordered eating or body shame from someone who markets weight loss.
- Do not judge people for eating or apologize for the food in front of you.
For more information about weight stigma CLICK HERE.
Drury, C., & Louis, M. Exploring the Association Between Body Weight, Stigma of Obesity, and Health Care Avoidance. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Banner. 2002. Vol 14, Issue 12, 554-561
Major, B., Hunger, J., Bunyan, D., & Miller, C. The ironic effects of weight stigma. Journal of Experimental Social, 2014. 51. 2014, 74–80.
Puhl, R & Heuer, C. Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health. Am J Public Health. 2010. 100(6): 1019-1028
Puhl, R. M., Moss-Racusin, C. a, & Schwartz, M. B. Internalization of weight bias: Implications for binge eating and emotional well-being. 2007. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.)
Schvey, N. A., Puhl, R. M., & Brownell, K. D. The Impact of Weight Stigma on Caloric Consumption. Obesity, 2011. 19(10), 1957–1962.
Tylka, T., Annunziato, R., Burgard, D., Daníelsdóttir,S., Shuman,E., Davis, C., and Calogero, R., The Weight-Inclusive versus Weight-Normative Approach to Health: Evaluating the Evidence for Prioritizing Well-Being over Weight Loss. Journal of Obesity. 2014. Volume 2014.
Van den Berg, P., & Neumark-Sztainer, D. Fat ′n Happy 5 Years Later: Is It Bad for Overweight Girls to Like Their Bodies? Journal of Adolescent Health, 2007. 41(4), 415–41 7.