Weight Stigma Affects Us All, No Matter What Our Size

By Marsha Hudnall on 09/23/2013
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WSAW13It’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week.  Do you know what you’re thinking about your body?  Chances are, it’s not good — statistics show up to 80% of women are dissatisfied with what they look like.  And in this society, that dissatisfaction is for the most part focused on how much we weigh.

It’s no mystery why the focus is on weight.  Being thin is idealized these days, and if you don’t fit that image, you’re subject to discrimination from a wide variety of sources — from the school playground to the workplace to the doctor’s office and more.  Research shows family is  actually one of the biggest perpetrators of the problem.  To say nothing of  the prejudice individuals themselves have about larger bodies, even when they live in one. (Btw, don’t feel bad about that –  it’s almost inescapable in today’s society.)

What’s not commonly recognized is this an issue for thinner folks, too.  One of the big problems we see at Green Mountain is the fear of weight gain can drive eating behaviors that end up actually causing weight gain.  If and when you’re already larger, misguided efforts to “fix” things usually send people in the opposite direction than they want to go, too.

Fix the Cause, Not the Symptom

As with anything, the real solution is to go to the source.  Fix the root causes, not the symptoms.  The bonus is that symptoms generally resolve when the root cause is effectively addressed.

In this case, the root issue is weight stigma — “Bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s body size or weight.” (BEDA, 2010).  It’s widespread because it’s not recognized as prejudice or that it’s so damaging. But it’s time to recognize this, and stop it.

So we hope you’ll join us this week over at the Binge Eating Disorder Association website for a variety of activities designed to help both the public and professionals understand how weight stigma is practiced and how to begin to turn things around for the benefit of all of us.  I am privileged to chair the week this year and hope you will find value in the hard work from the many experts in the field who participated in putting this week’s activities together.

Highlights of Weight Stigma Awareness Week

  • Two webinars — Amy Pershing, president of BEDA, and I will be talking about body neutrality(TM), the concept we developed at Green Mountain to help those who think the gap between body hate and body love is just too wide for them to cross at this point.      Rebecca Puhl, PhD, will also speak with Chevese Turner, founder, president and CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association, about Rebecca’s research that validates the damage that weight stigma causes in the lives of so many.
  • Other events include a virtual mixer with Brian Cuban, author of Shattered Image: My Triumph Over Body Dysmorphic Disorder , a tweet chat with the inimitable Ralph Carson, PhD, RD, a blog conference featuring over 40 prominent bloggers, and toolkits developed for dietitians/nutritionists, psychologists, fitness professionals, and physicians, as well as one to help people working with these professionals.

As you participate in the various events and blog conference, we’d love to hear what you think.  Did the discussions give you any new insight?  New hope?  New strategies for helping yourself and others around the issue of weight and body dissatisfaction?

3 Responses (Add Yours)

  • Harriet Krivit says:

    Hi Marsha, My comment to BEDA
    SOMETIMES IT’S LESS DRAMATIC, EVEN QUESTIONING DID I EXPERIENCE “WEIGHT STIGMA”? Yes, for the source of all approval affection and love was my father. First disapproval was in puberty with minor weight gain. My father, patting me on the tush said: “you’re going to lose some of that avoirdupois, yes?” So clearly becoming heavier meant if I wanted approval affection and love becoming heavier or fat HUGE DANGER. My whole life my dad refer to my Mom lovingly as “that little woman” and not about her height. My mom never turned to food except for pleasant sustenance. Same small size her whole life.

    • Marsha Hudnall says:

      Research shows that often the biggest perpetrators of weight stigma are family members. It’s certainly what we hear over and over again at Green Mountain. Thanks for sharing your experience, Harriet.

  • […] If you read our blog regularly, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, etc., you know it’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week. […]

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