Weight stigma is also known as weight bias or weight discrimination.

Discriminating or stereotyping based on a person’s size.

Weight stigma also manifests in fat phobia: the dislike or fear of being or becoming fat.

Examples of weight stigma:

  • Assuming someone in a larger body is lazy, undisciplined, binge eats, and/or doesn’t exercise.
  • Going to the doctor for a sore throat and being lectured on weight; avoiding doctor appointments as result.
  • Not being able to find trendy clothing in larger sizes.
  • Healthcare providers spending less time with and viewing larger bodied patients as “noncompliant, difficult.”
  • Being fired, not hired, or paid less for a job due to weight (more often for women).
  • Stock images of fat people used only in contexts of “overeating,” wanting to lose wight, dieting, being lazy, or for shock value. 
  • Vulnerability to bullying or teasing at school.
  • Sitcom fat-shaming (up to 14 x per episode).
  • Airline seats that are too narrow to sit in comfortably.
  • Emphasis on weight loss over fitness at gyms, non-inclusivity.
  • Approval of thin people eating “junk” food, judgement when fat people eat “junk” food.
  • Assuming certain activities are only for thin people, e.g., running, hiking, biking, dancing etc.
  • Telling someone they are not fat, when they are indeed fat (and acting like it’s a bad thing).
  • Assuming only fat people develop heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.
  • Before and after photos of yourself. Especially harmful if you have thin privilege.

How we can fight weight stigma:

  • Investigate our own biases and challenge them. Ask yourself how scared you are of being fat?
  • Diversify stock images when creating materials at home, work, school.
  • Read and share (with friends, family, employers, doctors, schools), books articles and studies that speak to the implications of weight stigma on physical and mental health outcomes.
  • Speak up when you hear it.
  • Speak to your children about body diversity and avoid derogatory language/jokes about being fat.
  • Advocate for laws to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees because of their weight (weight discrimination is legal in 48 states).
  • Request to skip the scale at routine medical exams.
  • Stop using the word “obesity”: especially in derogatory contexts; normalize the neutral use of the word fat.
  • Stop saying someone “looks good” when they lose weight. 
Everyone- in every shape and sized body deserves to be treated for any health issue.
Unfortunately, weight stigma is a major barrier for folx in larger bodies. They don’t get the healthcare they may need and most certainly deserve.
Weight stigma in our diet obsessed culture is directly responsible for epidemic and continued increase of eating disorders and disordered eating. 
You cannot tell if someone is struggling with an eating disorder based on the size of their body. 
Eating disorders come in all shapes, sizes and colors. 
Another sad result of weight stigma, is that people in larger bodies internalize these messages that something is wrong with them because they are in a larger body. Diet culture and everyone around them reinforces these toxic beliefs. This leads to body loathing and increased body shame. When someone feels intense body shame they are less likely to engage in good self-care behaviors. 

Let’s make the world a safer place for fat people.

Let’s end the harm done by weight stigma.

What can you do today to help this fight? 

Share your comments below. And, head over to Facebook and join my group Intuitive Eating Warriors – a safe place to dismantle your own weight bias and to get support with all things intuitive eating!

Much love,

Karen

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Karen Louise Scheuner, MA, RDN

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