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Weight Bias Contributes to Weight-Related Health Issues

Updated: Aug 26, 2023

We've discussed what weight bias is, now it's important to consider how weight bias can contribute to weight-related issues. Because a poor diet, poor nutrition habits and lack of movement are not always the only culprits.

Six supporting points that show how weight bias and weight stigma can cause weight-related issues:

1- Weight bias and weight stigma is common and has adverse health consequences. Weight bias has been associated with adverse health outcomes that include anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, body image issues, and physiological reactivity. It has been proposed that the stigma associated with weight is contributing to the negative health outcomes associated with excess weight rather than the excess weight itself!

2- Shaming individuals for their body weight does not elicit positive behavior change, in fact, it can do the opposite. I spoke on this in my intro to weight bias email but it needs to be revisited here. Experiencing weight bias can cause those people to avoid exercise all together out of fear of being shamed for their size, and lead to poor eating habits like binging that could promote weight gain. If larger bodied individuals experience weight stigma from their healthcare practitioners then they may avoid seeking care all together. 3- Internalized weight bias is particularly problematic. "Internalized weight bias, defined as individuals’ belief that they deserve the stigma and discriminatory treatment they experience as a result of having overweight or obesity, is particularly worrisome." Internalized weight bias is strongly associated with poor mental health, adverse eating behavior, worse relationships to food, and can lead to depression, poor body image, low self-esteem, and avoidance of health care.

4- Public health interventions, if not carefully thought out, can perpetuate weight bias. "A weight-centric approach, in which weight is viewed as a proxy for health and beauty, has contributed to individuals with overweight or obesity experiencing weight bias and discrimination with increasing frequency and intensity. The focus on the health consequences of obesity has led to public ‘fat panic’ through media portrayals and public health policies, programs, and campaigns that glamorize thinness and demonize fatness." When the sole focus of public health interventions is to lose weight, this causes people to associate health with weight loss and being in a small body when in reality, weight is a small component to overall health. 5- Weight bias is a manifestation of social inequity. Social inequity refers to unequal access, opportunities, rewards, and therefore outcomes for different social groups that are unfair and unjust. Weight bias is a manifestation of social inequity because people belonging to the ‘large bodies’ social group are not treated equally to the ‘small bodies’ social group in various sectors in society (e.g., employment, education, healthcare). It has been argued that weight bias is a socially acceptable form of prejudice today." 6- Action on weight bias requires an upstream, population-level approach. "The traditional approach to reducing stigma associated with obesity has been to raise awareness and educate individuals primarily in clinical contexts by improving knowledge on the multifactorial etiology of obesity, increasing awareness of weight bias and its negative implications, and providing sensitivity training on the prevention and management of obesity."

And that's why you are getting this email with this information - to raise awareness and to educate you on the implications that weight stigma has on individuals who exist outside the 'norm.' There's a time and place for weight loss interventions but it should not always be the first line of action for individuals in larger bodies. This is why I chose to practice from a weight-neutral place and treat all my patients and clients with respect.


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