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Weight stigma: five unspoken truths



It can cause a lot of damage. Credit: Shutterstock

The stigma of weight – a negative response to someone based on weight ̵

1; is the fourth most common form of social discrimination among adults – after age, gender and race. It is the only form of discrimination that is still widely considered socially acceptable.

The stigma of weight is also one of the most misunderstood aspects of obesity. As such, it is often ignored. Increasing awareness of the stigma and its effects could help reduce the existing high levels.

Campaigns have been launched to increase public understanding of the stigma of weight, such as the World Obesity Federation's World Obesity Day 2018. Here are five shocking facts about the stigma of weight you may not know about:

1. People with obesity can develop eating disorders

Research has found that the stigma of weight and its effects Emotions are significantly associated with all messy consumption measures. Public messages that focus heavily on personal guilt can lead individuals to develop unfair eating behavior, including restrictions, binges and purges in an attempt to become "healthy". In fact, it is estimated that about 80-85% of people with eating disorders are not underweight. It can also take longer for people with obesity to receive treatment to eat in a disordered way.

2. The stigma of weight can cause many health problems attributed to obesity

Model of stigma based on the weight of cyclic obesity. Credit: Tomiyama, A

Discrimination has significant weight on mental health and can lead to chronic stress. This in turn has shown to have an impact on physical health in many serious ways. Stress can have a negative effect on blood sugar levels, blood fat levels, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, as well as insulin resistance and visceral fat levels.

3. The stigma of weight can encourage weight gain

This diagram represents what the researchers define the stigma model based on the weight of cyclic obesity.

It shows how the stigma of weight has been shown to cause stress and, consequently, can induce particular eating behaviors that can lead to weight gain. In addition to being cruel, the repetitive nature of this cycle means that the stigma of weight is a key contributing factor when it comes to the prevalence of obesity.

4. Stigma often perpetrated by friends and family, not strangers

The negative hypotheses and cruel comments from friends and family have been reported as one of the most common experiences of stigmatization of weight. Research has found that the stigma experienced by family and friends is directly related to coping strategies such as eating and eating.

<a rel = "lightbox" href = "https://3c1703fe8d.site.internapcdn.net/newman/gfx/news/2018/2-weightstigma.jpg" title = "The complexity of the weight stigma Credit: World Obesity Federation ">
 Stigma of weight: five unexpressed truths
The complexities of the stigma of weight. Credit: World Obesity Federation

5. The prejudice of weight can be internalized by individuals

The widespread prejudice of weight and stigma can induce individuals to believe that the negative stereotypes attributed to them are true – and that they deserve the stigmatization they are so frequently subjected to. . This self-deprecatory reaction has also been shown to remain in individuals who have lost weight. Internalized prejudice has been linked to a greater likelihood of suicidal thoughts and acts

A marginalized problem

Obesity is a global problem and most of the population is deeply aware of it . The central messages within the current narrative surrounding the obesity are that it is an increasing problem that is harmful to health and requires action and intervention. While there is validity in every aspect of this central message, a crucial piece of the puzzle is missing.

The stigma of weight is a serious problem and there are many aspects that are currently absent from the conversations surrounding obesity. The role played by the stigma of weight is a fundamental factor that must be considered and addressed.

The results of the stigma can be catastrophic and there must be a greater sensitivity towards it. The type of resources provided by organizations such as the World Obesity Federation can help government officials, media professionals, health service providers and members of the public learn more about how to do it.

If we want to improve the health of our societies, the stigma of weight can no longer be put aside in actions, interventions and policies that affect obesity. Raising awareness of this problem is the first step towards reducing its prevalence and preventing the stigma of weight from continuing to be the most socially acceptable form of discrimination.


Explore further:
Men can experience the stigma of weight as much as women

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