Think big. Help overcome the stigma of obesity

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According to a recent article, “It’s time to end the stigma of obesity” (Muth, IDEA Fitness Journal, July-August, 2016), weight bias may be the last socially acceptable form of discrimination and widespread stigmatization. How can this be acceptable to a society that prides itself on equal opportunity for all? Moreover, this view exacts a high cost, both from individuals and society at large. For example, as Muth reports:

Many people with obesity avoid or delay preventative healthcare for fear of encountering disrespect, negative attitudes, embarrassment when being weighed, unsolicited weight-loss advice, and medical equipment too small to accommodate their body size (Phalanx et al. 2015).

Even personal trainers hired to help people with obesity have weight biases. Do you? Take this quiz (developed to assess weight bias among Australian physiotherapists [Setchell et al. 2014]), and see your score at the end.*

*Note: study results reflected a common belief that people with obesity are to blame for their condition and if they just had more willpower, they’d achieve a healthy weight. Not that simple of course.

Refuse to engage in weight shaming
of yourself and others. Educate friends,
family, and coworkers to do the same.

Sedentary desk jobs, communities and work places that are not conducive to increasing daily activity, and time spent on working and commuting–nevermind genetic disposition and biological “setpoints”–stack the deck against one’s best efforts to overcome obesity.

big woman surveying diet options

What can you do?

Counter negativity and champion efforts to make the easy choice the healthy choice. Advocate for “behavioral justice,” which demands full access to resources that promote healthy behaviors, such as affordable, healthy food, safe streets and sidewalks, walkable communities, etc. And please–REFUSE to engage in weight shaming of yourself and others. Educate friends, family, and coworkers to do the same.

Here is an eye-opening podcast titledTell Me I’m Fatfrom NPR’s This American Life. Totally worth the listen.

JUN 17, 2016
The way people talk about being fat is shifting. With one-third of Americans classified as overweight, and another third as obese, and almost none of us losing weight and keeping it off, maybe it’s time to rethink the way we see being fat. A show inspired by Lindy West’s book Shrill.

It is up to all of us to advocate for these basic rights and to help overcome weight stigma, prejudice, and discrimination. Improving our view toward others always elevates us all.

In that regard, check out this website for the obesity action coalition, a nonprofit group advocating for the rights of people with obesity.

Keep moving. — Jen


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