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Weight Stigma: The Socially Acceptable Prejudice. Two-part series. Presented by Josephine Money, APD

By Chloe Risaglu, APD

Weight stigma resides in society in many forms, often in ways we don’t think to question. Examples include clinic chairs, theatre and airplane seats being too small and flimsy. Movies and television portraying the large person as the ‘goofy’ friend. Unsolicited diet advice from strangers. Being stared at, given a wide berth – or purposely bumped in to.

As well as being discriminatory and having negative social impacts, weight stigma is associated with poor physical and psychological outcomes. This includes oxidative stress, increased CRP, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. The worrying difference between the stigma of weight and other forms of prejudice (eg. racism), is that weight bias is often not questioned.

Being in a larger body means not receiving the same quality of treatment as those in smaller bodies. Many health professionals are quick to jump to weight loss as the answer to any health issue, failing to consider the relevance of weight. Treatments that would be offered to a people in smaller bodies are denied to people in larger bodies.

Jo argues that the dominant culture in Australia and New Zealand means that we all have an anti-fat bias, and she includes herself in this. How do we become more aware of our own weight bias to ensure we don’t contribute to the issue?

Some of the things we can do to improve our own practice include:

  • Examine and unpack our own biases; think about the messages we’ve received and where they came from. Be self-compassionate with ourselves during this process.
  • Carefully consider the language we use with our clients (what words does the client feel comfortable with us using?)
  • Adopt a weight-neutral approach (where weight isn’t the driving goal of nutrition intervention)
  • Allow clients the space to talk about their own stories and lived experiences pertaining to their bodies (validating the experiences they have gone through and the emotions they’ve felt)
  • Evaluate the physical space of where we practice (including the amount of space a client must navigate, the artwork on walls and magazines on display (do they display a diverse range of body sizes and shapes? Do they promote diet culture?)
  • Have conversations with other people, and seek out information pertaining to weight stigma and people’s experiences

Josephine Money is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian with over 10 years’ experience in private practice. She is the director of her Melbourne-based clinic Eat Love Live and is passionate about working with individuals across the spectrum of eating disorders, disordered eating and mental health issues. Jo is the co-chair of the ANZAED Weight Stigma and Social Justice Special interest group.

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To register for the Part 2 presentation and associated documents including the assessment quiz click here