Weight bias is the last acceptable form of discrimination. As a result of the assertions by the media, researchers and the healthcare system that we must end the obesity epidemic as the only way to manage chronic disease, we have become obsessed with weight loss and the prevalence of weight discrimination has increased 66% over the past 10 years, as reported 5 years ago.
What is Weight Stigma?
Weight stigma includes assumptions that larger people are lazy, undisciplined, unintelligent and not healthy. In the medical field weight bias is characterized by the belief that overweight people should always lose weight, body weight is a simple matter of choice and that overweight people should eat less and move more to improve their health.
“Weight stigma depends upon three basic suppositions: thin is always preferable, thin is always possible, and thin people are better people.”
How does Weight Stigma affect us?
Weight bias from health care practitioners has been documented to contribute to avoidance of preventive health care services, which encourages people to only access health care when they are sick or injured. This does not allow for preventive care or the achievement of optimal health. Not only does weight bias by a health care practitioner negatively impact the individual’s health and quality of life, there is negative affect on our healthcare system and culture as a whole.
Weight bias is so pervasive that my patients and clients themselves feel that they are undisciplined and lazy simply because they have not achieved their goal weight.
An awareness of weight stigma should allow you to see how this form of discrimination contributes to the development of disordered eating patterns and ignores the biology of body weight, diet, exercise and lifestyle.
My experience of weight bias has influenced the medical care I received. In investigating the cause of my osteopenia, two different physicians wrote me off with the assertion that I must have had an eating disorder at some point that triggered poor bone formation, as low bone density is associated with restrictive eating disorders. Their weight bias delayed my diagnosis of celiac disease for about 8 years!
What are your experiences?
Think back. How have you been affected by weight bias? What have your experiences been? Consider how your approach to eating, exercise and living might be different if health was not equated to thinness and if self-worth was not attached to the shape of your body.
What does this mean for diet and exercise?
Weight is a reflection of habits; it is a symptom, not a cause. Shape your lifestyle to achieve health not a number on the scale and I guarantee you will be successful.
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