What Is Weight Stigma? Experts Explain



General stigma, defined as “a set of damaging and unfair beliefs that society or a gaggle of individuals have about one thing,” is all over the place. You could have heard it with reference to psychological well being (e.g., “You can’t be sad since your life is going so well right now”), menstrual well being (e.g., “Periods are disgusting and embarrassing”), and bodily capacity (e.g., “Only elderly folks need hearing aids”). These examples solely scratch the floor of how far stigma reaches and what it could actually seem like.

One other a type of many, many examples that we don’t discuss sufficient is weight stigma. And contemplating the emotional and bodily ramifications, we have to discuss it extra.

What’s weight stigma?

“Weight stigma, additionally known as sizeism, is damaging beliefs, in addition to discrimination towards, folks particularly due to their physique weight,” explains Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist of Brooklyn-based Maya Feller Nutrition and writer of Eating from Our Roots: 80+ Healthy Home-Cooked Favorites from Cultures Around the World. “This stigma is disproportionately directed at individuals who stay in bigger our bodies.”

Even worse, weight stigma has inherent and horrible roots in racism and different types of oppression. “This assumption can result in discrimination and viewing a person as lazy or unmotivated in the event that they don’t match inside tradition norms primarily based on their physique form and dimension,” says Jessica Barth Nesbitt, RD, LD, CEDRD, a regional vitamin director at Eating Recovery Center.

What weight stigma seems like in on a regular basis life

Weight stigma is pervasive. Based on a 2021 study in the International Journal of Obesity1, 42 % of the over 2,000 folks polled mentioned they’d skilled it.

Weight stigma particularly impacts individuals who additionally face racism, misogyny, and different types of oppression, too. “Black and Brown folks in bigger our bodies expertise a double social burden, and girls and femmes of shade expertise triple burdens,” Feller says.

She lists some particular examples of what weight stigma can seem like:

Serena Nangia, an advocate for consuming dysfunction restoration, advertising supervisor for Project HEAL, a nonprofit targeted on equitable therapy entry for consuming problems, and a self-identified fats individual, agrees that weight stigma and its results are rampant in well being care, training, and plenty of different areas. Nangia, who leads workshops on fatphobia and weight stigma, cites the next analysis as just some of the numerous methods weight stigma impacts folks in larger our bodies:

  • A national survey published in Obesity4 discovered that 90 % of emergency departments don’t have sure varieties of gear, akin to scanners, for folks over 450 kilos.
  • An updated review in Obesity5 discovered that physician’s visits for sufferers in bigger our bodies lasted a shorter period of time than that of their skinny counterparts, no matter coming in with the identical ailment.
  • A lack of inclusive clothing sizing, as seen in class uniforms, theater costumes, group shirts, and extra
  • Academics have decrease expectations for fats college students than they do for skinny college students, in keeping with an Obesity study6.

And that’s solely a begin.

Alongside these traces, a fast FYI: Red flags indicating your doctor might hold weight bias embrace assuming how a lot you eat or train, ignoring a historical past of disordered eating, and inspiring weight reduction (particularly within the presence of wholesome vitals and lab outcomes).

“The messaging right here is that these areas usually are not for bigger our bodies,” Feller says.

The results of weight stigma

Bias in opposition to an individual’s weight—whether or not implicit or express—has dangerous penalties. “They’re topic to micro and macro aggressions,” Feller says. “It could actually have a damaging affect on psychological well being and the availability of high quality care.”

She factors to an American Psychological Association article linking to a number of research that share a few of these results, akin to an elevated danger for substance use7 and suicidal ideation8, decreased physical activity and interactions with health-care systems9, and poorer cognitive performance10, to call a number of.

Nesbitt has discovered the identical—and extra—to be true. “Weight stigma can result in damaging impacts on a person’s psychological well being, vanity, relationships, and physique picture,” she says. “It could actually additionally assist and reinforce the engagement of dysfunction[ed] consuming behaviors.”

On that notice, Nangia cites a 2018 study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine11 with related findings. “Excessive-weight folks with eating disorders are exponentially extra prone to be inspired to have interaction in consuming dysfunction behaviors—restriction, over-exercise, and so forth.—to shed extra pounds than to be screened for an consuming dysfunction by their medical doctors,” she says.

To sum up how weight stigma impacts folks, Nangia suggests remembering “the 4 Is”: ideologically, institutionally, interpersonally, and internally. Weight stigma is about how our society sees and treats skinny folks higher on ranges each large and small.

“Privilege offers permission and reinforcement for particular person members of the dominant group to personally disrespect and mistreat people within the oppressed group,” she says.

Additional, the stereotypes and stigma surrounding fats our bodies usually are not solely hurtful, but additionally pointless, inapplicable, and unfaithful. “Individuals typically really feel that ‘well being’ is a legitimate cause to inform a fats individual that their physique is unhealthy, ugly, or disgusting—all phrases my physique has been known as,” she provides. “Regardless of folks’s dedication to strangers’ well being, the reality is that well being can’t be decided by somebody’s dimension, aka Health at Every Size, and being wholesome just isn’t an ethical obligation.”

Properly+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, latest, strong research to again up the data we share. You may belief us alongside your wellness journey.

  1. Lee, Ok. M., Starvation, J. M., & Tomiyama, A. J. “Weight stigma and well being behaviors: proof from the Consuming in America Examine.” Worldwide Journal of Weight problems, vol. 45, 2021, pp. 1499–1509. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-021-00814-5.


  2. Flint, Stuart W et al. “Weight problems Discrimination within the Recruitment Course of: “You’re Not Employed!”.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 7 647. 3 Might. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00647
  3. Lee, Hyeain et al. “Influence of Weight problems on Employment and Wages amongst Younger Adults: Observational Examine with Panel Knowledge.” Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being vol. 16,1 139. 7 Jan. 2019, doi:10.3390/ijerph16010139
  4. Ginde, Adit A., et al. “The Problem of CT and MRI Imaging of Overweight People Who Current to the Emergency Division: A Nationwide Survey.” Weight problems, vol. 20, no. 2, 2012, pp. 462–470. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.410.
  5. Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. “The Stigma of Weight problems: A Overview and Replace.” Weight problems, vol. 17, no. 5, 2009, pp. 941–964. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.636.
  6. Greenleaf, Christy, Scott B. Martin, and Debbie Rhea. “Combating Fats: How Do Fats Stereotypes Affect Beliefs About Bodily Training?” Weight problems, vol. 17, no. 7, 2009, pp. 1362–1367. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2008.454.
  7. Hatzenbuehler, Mark L., Katherine M. Keyes, and Deborah S. Hasin. “Associations Between Perceived Weight Discrimination and the Prevalence of Psychiatric Problems within the Common Inhabitants.” Weight problems, vol. 17, no. 11, 2009, pp. 2033–2039. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2009.131.
  8. Brochu, P.M. “Weight Stigma as a Danger Issue for Suicidality.” Worldwide Journal of Weight problems, vol. 44, 2020, pp. 1979–1980. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41366-020-0632-5.
  9. Tomiyama, A. Janet. “Weight Stigma is Disturbing: A Overview of Proof for the Cyclic Weight problems/Weight-Based mostly Stigma Mannequin.” Urge for food, vol. 82, 1 November 2014, pp. 8–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.06.108.
  10. Starvation, Jeffrey M., Alison Blodorn, Carol T. Miller, and Brenda Main. “The Psychological and Physiological Results of Interacting with an Anti-Fats Peer.” Physique Picture, vol. 27, December 2018, pp. 148–155. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.09.002.
  11. Nagata, Jason M et al. “Prevalence and Correlates of Disordered Consuming Behaviors Amongst Younger Adults with Obese or Weight problems.” Journal of basic inner drugs vol. 33,8 (2018): 1337-1343. doi:10.1007/s11606-018-4465-z

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