End Weight Stigma: World Obesity Day

Posted on October 11, 2018 by kerri
World Obesity Day aims to help end obesity while also decreasing stigma around obesity for those who are currently affected. While obesity can be the cause of health issues, it can also result from health conditions, and the stigma faced by people who are obese can cause far-reaching problems including those related to employment, access to healthcare, socialization, and more—the impacts of obesity are not simply those related to health. As well, the Health at Every Size model advocates that every person can make positive lifestyle changes for their health, no matter their weight, size or shape.
 
Ending weight stigma
Weight stigma exists in everyday interactions we have, our thoughts about ourselves, and in the media—these are just a few examples, and it is everywhere. Like other types of stigma, weight stigma is dangerous because it can prevent us from seeing people for who they truly are. If we cannot begin the conversation about obesity due to stigma or bias associated with weight, especially among healthcare providers, how do we move that conversation to support people and environments to “support practical solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight, and to reverse the obesity crisis”, as is the mandate of the World Obesity Federation? [1]
Weight stigma and discrimination is just as prevalent in the United States as racial discrimination per a 2010 article [2], yet it is less discussed as a form of prejudice. Research suggests from 2000 to 2010, incidence of weight-based discrimination had increased by 66%. [2] As with racism, there are no factual bases for weight-based discrimination. Weight bias can also be internalized, wherein people feel negatively about themselves due to their weight. [3]
Decrease weight stigma by changing how you speak
For everyone, simply changing how we talk about obesity can help—people have obesity like they have other medical conditions. Addressing the person as such can help, if you must reference their weight at all. One particular area this is especially relevant in is medicine: a patient has obesity, they are not their obesity. [4] If other medical conditions were addressed as obesity currently is (you are obese/overweight), many people would be understandably appalled—for example, a person with allergies would never be described as “being” their allergies! It only makes sense to change how we speak to focus on the person first.
Changing obesity by changing perceptions
It makes sense that by decreasing weight stigma we can normalize conversations about weight, and through this, promote positive health habits at any size, as well as work toward decreasing obesity—change begins with conversations, and rarely does it work when those conversations begin with judgement!
If you have had weight loss surgery, you should consider wearing medical ID jewelry, especially if you have had gastric bypass surgery and should not have a “blind” nasogastric tube inserted for emergency nutrition, given doctors cannot see the pathway to the stomach as normal. In other cases, certain medications may not be able to be used, or in the event you have conditions like diabetes that require monitoring. Type 2 diabetes and gastric bypass surgery, for example, should be engraved on your custom medical ID bracelet.

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