September 23-27, 2019 marks the celebration of Weight Stigma Awareness Week. This week was originally created by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) which has since merged with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). NEDA plans to continue this awareness week to shed light on weight stigma.
What is Weight Stigma?
Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s size. Weight stigma is also judgement about a person’s character, personality, lifestyle, work ethic and other features based on their size. Weight stigma occurs as thoughts, insults, name-calling, and other negative language or actions.
Where Does Weight Stigma Occur?
- Friends & Family
- (Social) Media
- Wellness/Fitness Industry
- Transportation, Housing, Employment, Etc.
- Public Settings (for example: chair sizes in movie theaters or sporting events)
What Are The Consequences of Weight Stigma?
Weight stigma can lead to poor emotional and physical health. People that experience weight stigma can also experience depression, social isolation, suicidal thoughts, low self-esteem, and poor body image. Weight stigma focuses on weight instead of health which typically results in poor self-care where people don’t take care of themselves with nutritious food choices, engage in physical activity, and in general don’t take care of their health. Many people end up dieting on and off for quite some time, leading to weight cycling (losing and gaining weight repeatedly) which creates more health problems. Disordered eating and a negative relationship with food and body is also a risk for people experiencing weight stigma.
What Can You Do?
- Recognize your own weight biases. A person’s size does not tell us anything about that person.
- Avoid commenting on any person’s body, thin or large and everything in between.
- Change your thinking about the relationship between weight and health. Those in the “overweight” BMI category have actually been shown to live the longest. Our societal pressure to be thin is not rooted in health or evidence based science. Thin people can have the same health habits and challenges as a person in a larger body. Most of us incorrectly attribute any health issues to weight.
“We, as a community, need to understand how weight stigma and weight discrimination affect people of all sizes, how it contributes to or exacerbates eating disorders in people of all sizes, and how we call work together with a unified voice to eliminate stigma and discrimination based on body size.”