Weight stigma. Presented by Jo Money APD
The socially acceptable prejudice
Compared to other forms of prejudice, like race and sex, being openly intolerant to people who are in large bodies is generally acceptable, which is why weight stigma is often referred to as the last socially acceptable prejudice. Jo argues that the dominate beliefs in western culture mean that we all have an anti-fat bias and she includes herself in this. It is from this non-blaming and compassionate perspective that we get to examine the impacts of weight stigma on health.
Weight stigma is so ingrained in our culture, it’s often hard to identify. Some tangible examples include narrow chairs, entertainment portraying the large person as the ‘goofy’ friend, or unsolicited diet advice from strangers. Weight stigma is enacted in various overt and subvert ways, and it impacts everyone, particularly individuals in larger bodies.
The enduring defence for health care to promote weight loss is the perception that large bodies are unhealthy bodies. Research examining the health outcomes of people who experience weight stigma demonstrates increased negative outcomes for both physical and psychological health, even when relevant variables, including body size, are controlled for. The burden placed on our health care systems are increased, rather than reduced, by the attempt to make large bodies smaller.
We have a chance to reconceptualise how healthcare can support better health for all. Practitioners can learn to recognise weight stigma in the clinical setting, and actively avoid reinforcing it. We can focus on supporting behaviour change rather than body change.
Josephine Money is an Accredited Practising 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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