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Weight stigma is a worldwide burden – and there are negative consequences everywhere


By Rebecca Puhlihandjob University of Connecticut

Lazy. not inspired. No self-discipline. No will.

These are just some of the widespread stereotypes in American society about people who are overweight or have a large body size. Known as weight stigma, these attitudes result in many Americans being blamed, teased, bullied, abused and discriminated against.

There is nowhere to hide from the stigma of social weight. Confirmation of decades of research presence of weight stigma In workplaces, schools, health care settings, public housing and the mass media, as well as in close interpersonal relationships with friends and families. it’s everywhere.

i am psychologist and researcher On rudd center for food policy and obesity University of Connecticut. For 20 years my team has studied weight stigma. We have examined the origin and prevalence of weight stigma, its presence in various social settings, the harm it causes to people’s health, and strategies to combat this problem.

We recently conducted an international study that clearly shows that weight stigma is widespread, harmful and difficult to eradicate. This social devaluation is a real and valid experience for people from different countries, languages ​​and cultures.

A Persistent American Prejudice

Among US adults, there is a weight stigma. general experience, with 40% reporting past experiences of weight-based teasing, inappropriate behavior and discrimination. these are experiences most popular for high people body mass index or that with obesity and for women. For youth, body weight is one of the most prevalent reasons for teasing and bullying.

the fact that more and more 40% of Americans are obese The public attitude towards this group of people has not softened. Although social attitudes toward other stigmatized groups have become less prejudicial in recent decades, there has been little change In weight bias. in some cases it’s getting worse.

The prevailing view that people are personally responsible for their weight, despite substantial scientific evidence the complex and multifactorial cause Obesity is one reason why the weight stigma persists. It’s hard to change this mindset given American culture’s celebration of thinness, negative media portrayals of people with bigger bodies, and a thriving diet industry. These factors reinforce the faulty premise that body weight is infinitely reprehensible, as does lack of law To protect people from weight discrimination.

Contrary to public belief, weight stigma does not motivate people to lose weight. instead of this health deteriorates and reduce the quality of life. Harmful Effects of Weight Stigma Can be real and long lasting. They range from emotional distress – depressive symptoms, anxiety, low self-esteem – to disordered eating, unhealthy eating behaviors, low physical activity, weight gain, increased physical stress, and avoidance of health care.

a common struggle

Weight stigma is not unique to America. it exists Worldwide. However, few studies have directly compared people’s experiences of weight stigma in different countries.

In our recent studyIn this article, we compared experiences of weight stigma in six countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the US. These countries share similar social values ​​that reinforce individual blame for body weight, and weight- based shaming and abuse do little to challenge. The participants were 13,996 adults (about 2,000 people per country) who were actively trying to manage their weight.

The biases people faced because of their high weight or large body size were remarkably consistent across the six countries, with more than half of the study participants – 58% on average – experiencing weight stigma. The most common mutual sources of weight stigma were family members (76%–87%), classmates (72%–76%) and doctors (58%–73%). These experiences were most frequent and distressing during childhood and adolescence.

Many people incorporated these stigmatized experiences into how they felt about themselves. In this process of “weight bias internalization”, people impose negative social stereotypes on themselves. They blame themselves for their weight and see themselves as inferior and deserving of social stigma.

We knew from our earlier research that internalizing weight bias has harmful health effects, and the same was true here. In six countries, the more people internalized a weight bias, the more they gained weight in the past year, used food to cope with stress, avoided going to the gym, had an unhealthy body image and reported higher stress. . These findings held regardless of people’s body size or their past experiences of stigma.

In addition, in all six countries People Reportedly Being Overweight Poor health-related quality of life and health care experiences. They avoided receiving health care, were screened less frequently and reported more substandard health care than those with less internalization.

The unique multinational perspective of our study suggests that weight stigma is commonly experienced, often intrinsic and related to poor health and health care in people trying to manage their weight. In this sense, facing weight stigma appears to be a collective struggle, but it is one that people are battling on their own.

because of optimism

While there is a long way to go in eliminating the weight stigma, societal attitudes are changing. In recent years, Disadvantages of “Fat Shaming” increased public attention, and so body positivity protest. Both are helping to step up efforts to prevent inappropriate behavior based on weight.

There is also a growing recognition in the medical community that action is needed. In 2020, more than 100 medical and scientific organizations in nine countries signed joint international consensus statement And resolve to draw attention to weight stigma and its harmful effects. These medical experts aim to help change the narrative of blame and remove weight stigma in the media, public view, and health care.

Our research shows broad and broad adequate public support Policies to tackle weight discrimination. In a series of national studies, we found that more than 70% of Americans support the addition of body weight as a protected category, along with categories such as race and age, in existing state civil rights laws. they also support New law to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees based on weight.

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It would legitimize the stigma of weight as both a social injustice and a public health issue.

I believe that addressing this problem requires comprehensive and collective action, both inside and outside the US. While this may sound daunting, it is actually quite simple: it is all about body weight and body weight. It is about respect, dignity and equal treatment for people of size.chit chat

Rebecca Puhli, professor and deputy director of human development and family science, Yukon Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, University of Connecticut

This article is republished from chit chat Under Creative Commons license. read the original article.


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of knews.uk and knews.uk does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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