The National Eating Disorder Association’s second annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 28 – October 2, serves to help the broader eating disorders community understand the importance of weight stigma for all bodies.
Weight stigma is discrimination or stereotyping based on one’s weight, especially larger or thinner individuals. Weight stigma is possibly the most endorsed, medically, and socially reinforced, promoted form of discrimination that exists. Not only is weight stigma a cruel form of bullying, but it is also inaccurate. Medical studies and scientific evidence have shown that all body sizes can be healthy.
What are the negative effects of weight stigma?
Whether subtle or overt, weight stigma induces a sense of shame, isolation, defectiveness, alienation, and humiliation. It can be damaging to an individual’s self-esteem, mental health, and physical health. Those who are bullied or isolated because of their shape or size are likely to experience poor self-image, depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders. This can lead to social isolation, fraught relationships, and a lack of overall wellbeing.
Weight bias is also a common underlying cause of eating disorders. Those who experience weight shaming can embark on dieting endeavors that typically are unsuccessful and become repetitive dieting episodes that end in bingeing. This can develop into binge eating disorder, a serious disorder that requires proper treatment.
What can we do to combat weight stigma?
- Recognize your own biases. Once you understand where your biases and judgments lie, you can consciously work against them.
- Understand the truth. The National Eating Disorder Association cites that as many as 50% of individuals who are overweight are deemed perfectly medically healthy. 30% of those individuals identified as obese. Lastly, people of different sizes can be the exact same level of health.
- Educate others. If you hear someone around you saying something problematic, speak up, and educate them.
- Advocate. Be vocal about combating weight stigma. Share stories, educate friends and family, and work to provide equal resources and opportunities to people of all sizes.
Weight stigma is about shame, body hatred, and judgment. It is something very real in our day to day lives, whether we personally experience weight stigma or not. Weight Stigma Awareness Week bravely embraces this concept. Raising awareness is an important part of the National Eating Disorder Association’s approach to caring for patients and addressing eating disorders.