This visitor publish was written by Amy Powderham, who’s in her fourth yr of finding out Nutrition & Dietetics at King’s College London.

Tired of seemingly countless misinformation and fad-filled commentary regarding vitamin, Amy returned to school to study the details from the fiction. Hoping to now assist others to do the identical, her focus is on addressing the risks of weight loss program tradition and selling health-focussed quite than weight-focused behaviour change relating to vitamin.

A private notice relating to this text. I’m an able-bodied, straight-size* feminine with skinny privilege**. I cannot profess to totally perceive what it means to be an individual in a bigger physique as a result of I’ve by no means skilled it. This article is written for many who (like me, till not too long ago) aren’t conscious of our personal weight stigma and the harm it’s doing. Whilst these in bigger our bodies aren’t proof against demonstrating weight stigma, a lot of the harm is completed by these in our bodies akin to mine.

*Straight-size = a substitute for ‘normal’ ‘average’ or ‘healthy’, as a result of these recommend that being plus dimension is the irregular or unhealthy

**Thin privilege = I’m considered as skinny and, subsequently, my dimension doesn’t dictate my day-to-day experiences. For instance, I search medical recommendation and my weight isn’t mentioned irrelevant of why I booked the appointment, my dimension isn’t the primary attribute used when somebody describes me and I can fairly simply discover garments my dimension.

Let’s begin as we imply to go on. The phrases ‘overweight’ and ‘obese’ may be stigmatising in themselves so these have been used right here solely to precisely replicate analysis. Owing to debate on essentially the most acceptable language relating to weight (I like to recommend this text for these ), impartial phrases akin to ‘weight’ and ‘BMI’ have predominantly been used elsewhere. However, it’s acknowledged that fats activists are reclaiming ‘fat’ and selling its use as a impartial descriptor. It is used on this vein in direction of the top of this text.

What is Weight Stigma?

Weight stigma is outlined because the social rejection and devaluation that accrues to those that don’t adjust to prevailing social norms of ample physique weight and form’(1).

In brief, it’s unfavorable attitudes in direction of these of a better weight.

As with any stigma, it might result in prejudice and, in flip, discrimination (2). Not solely are the numbers experiencing weight discrimination growing however it’s the third commonest type of discrimination within the UK, behind age and intercourse however forward of race (three – four). This is especially pertinent after we recognise that, of those, solely age, intercourse and racial discrimination are legislated towards within the UK (5).

Experiences of weight discrimination improve with weight and if feminine, however lower with age (four).

However, though research have predominantly targeted on ladies, there is no such thing as a doubt males are additionally topic to stigma (6). Additionally, it has been proven that males categorical extra stigmatising attitudes, as do those that train extra ceaselessly and have a decrease Body Mass Index (BMI) (7).

N.B. Within analysis, weight and its relation to well being is commonly measured utilizing the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Body Mass Index (BMI). This makes use of weight and peak to classify the inhabitants as:

  • Underweight (<18.5kg/m2)
  • Healthy (18.5-24.9kg/m2)
  • Overweight (25-29.9kg/m2)
  • Obese (>30kg/m2)

This measure is criticised for being a crude means to evaluate well being (eight). However, it’s used right here to precisely report analysis.

The results of weight stigma have been evidenced throughout schooling, employment and healthcare settings, with this latter piece maybe essentially the most regarding (9).

Despite being accountable for our well being, proof of stigmatising attitudes in healthcare practitioners is huge.

This has even been proven to be at related ranges to that of the overall inhabitants, in addition to amongst these specialising in weight problems care (10 – 13).

What’s the Problem with Weight Stigma?

Some would possibly argue that weight stigma is helpful, on the premise that it ensures being of a better weight isn’t the social norm and subsequently motivates these of a better weight to handle their well being (14). But this argument is flawed on quite a few ranges.

1. Don’t Assume Being of a Higher Weight is Always Unhealthy

It is essentially believed that weight is immediately associated to our well being, however analysis on this subject suggests it isn’t so easy.

Where analysis does recommend a relationship between BMI and mortality, it’s usually seen that decreased life expectancy happens on the excessive ends of the BMI spectrum (ie. being underweight or a really excessive weight).

The power of the connection in these courses as ‘overweight’ and reasonably ‘obese’ (30-35kg/m2) is weak (15). Additionally, these epidemiological research hardly ever account for elements akin to health, weight loss program high quality, weight biking, drug use and socioeconomic standing, which all have a big impact on our well being. Where they’re managed for, the connection between BMI and mortality lessens or disappears fully (16). Furthermore, it has been argued that being obese could in actual fact be useful in some cases (17).

The ‘obesity paradox’ describes the protecting impact of upper BMI that has been documented amongst older adults in addition to these with established illnesses, akin to heart problems and kind 2 diabetes (18 – 20).

Furthermore, there are a proportion of individuals with weight problems who’re metabolically wholesome, for whom weight reduction recommendation could each be misguided and detrimental (21 – 22).

This has led to the controversy that metabolic elements (akin to blood stress) are extra essential than weight relating to illness threat and that the placement of fats, quite than the quantity of it, could also be extra essential relating to figuring out well being (23 – 24).

Supporting this, cardiorespiratory health has been proven to have an effect on mortality independently of weight, which means that obese or overweight people who’re match wouldn’t essentially profit from weight reduction (25 – 26).

For these with metabolic threat markers (eg. raised LDL, ‘bad’ ldl cholesterol) it could be useful to lose 5-10% of physique weight, which is deemed clinically vital in medical pointers (27).

However, roughly 37-57% who take up business weight reduction programmes,, obtain lower than 5% weight reduction (28).

The pointers themselves acknowledge that three% is extra practical and that this must be maintained long-term, with little proof to help that this may be completed (29). Furthermore, the strategy by which that is completed is essential and it isn’t assured to be useful for everybody (30 – 31).

Even on the uncommon event weight reduction is achieved and profitable in bettering metabolic threat markers, this weight reduction received’t essentially imply a discount from the ‘obese’ BMI class to the ‘normal’ weight class (32). In the context of weight stigma, this implies people could have efficiently improved well being outcomes however nonetheless be topic to anti-fat attitudes that assume ill-health.

Additionally, given weight biking and drastic weight reduction can really be detrimental to well being, and well being enhancements have been made with out the necessity for weight reduction in any respect maybe a brand new strategy is required (33 – 34).

The weight-inclusive strategy to well being recognises that a concentrate on weight isn’t efficient and as a substitute focuses on well being behaviours within the pursuit of well-being (35).

Non-diet approaches to well being, akin to Health at Every dimension (HAES) and Intuitive consuming, promote self-acceptance and problem the societal norm of focusing on weight reduction as the primary port of name within the pursuit of wellbeing.

Studies have proven that weight loss program can efficiently scale back hypertension unbiased of weight reduction and that train can positively have an effect on lipoproteins, a marker for cardiovascular well being, with out weight reduction (36 – 37). Weight loss isn’t the one path to well-being, and the present tendency to veer in direction of this weight-normative strategy isn’t profitable, not all the time acceptable and typically damaging.

For extra details about non-diet vitamin try these posts:
What is Non-diet Nutrition?
Non-diet Nutrition: Examining the Evidence

2. Weight Stigma is Bad for Our Health

The unfavorable well being results of stigma have been proven to be extra damaging than obese or weight problems itself (38).

Given weight stigma is so pervasive, it has been purported to be a mechanism by which obese and weight problems is linked to poor well being (39).

Exposure to weight stigma has been linked to melancholy and nervousness, in addition to physiological results akin to weight acquire and elevated chance of weight problems (40 – 42). Alongside this, better ranges of HbA1c, a marker for blood sugar ranges, have been noticed in these experiencing frequent stigma in addition to the stress hormone, cortisol (43 – 44).

In phrases of behaviours, those that expertise stigma have been proven to keep away from healthcare, have much less motivation to interact in health-promoting behaviours and elevated incidence of disordered consuming behaviours (45 – 47). Ultimately highlighting that weight stigma exacerbates weight problems and isn’t an efficient means to advertise behaviour change. What’s extra, these unfavorable well being results exist even after weight reduction (48 – 49).

Finally, weight stigma doesn’t solely have an effect on these of a better weight. Weight bias internalisation (WBI) describes the internalisation of skilled stigma, and is characterised by acceptance and self-projection of societal attitudes in direction of being fats (50). WBI has been proven to be at related ranges in those that are obese and non-overweight (<25kg/m2), and is proven to narrate to disordered consuming behaviours in addition to poor bodily and psychological well being (51 – 52).

Thus, the damaging results of weight stigma can have an effect on any of us so long as we’re uncovered to the stigmatising stereotypes and attitudes that pervade our society.

three. Weight is Not Simply a Result of Individual Behaviour

Weight stigma may be measured by the extent to which people agree with unfavorable stereotypes related to being fats (53).

Stereotypes which might be generally reported within the literature embrace laziness, lack of willpower and non-compliance (13, 54). These all denote private accountability as a trigger for weight problems, which is consistent with attribution concept; that the extent to which weight problems is perceived as controllable determines the extent to which stigma is expressed (55).

Ultimately, the extra folks blame a person for his or her weight, the better their stigma. However, a couple of hundred elements are at play relating to weight (eight).

Our weight is a results of genetics, physiology, environmental and social elements. These elements interaction with out our management, with the last word results of regulating our physique weight (56). Other issues akin to intestine microbiota, drugs, sleep and weight-reduction plan historical past all affect our physique weight, which means the extent to which we’re accountable for our weight is way lower than we wish to assume (16).

Where Do We Go From Here?

Weight stigma is prevalent, widespread and very detrimental to well being. We must problem these norms in addition to ourselves. The three key factors highlighted above, and related analysis, will hopefully assist to do that.

Beginning by questioning our personal acutely aware or unconscious biases relating to these of a better weight.

In doing so, we will additionally begin to recognise and problem the place these biases come into our day-to-day conversations, interactions and observations.

The method we behave and the opinions we maintain have an effect on others. Social consensus concept is one which prevails within the dialog relating to weight stigma, which is the concept we’re witness to the stereotypes held by these round us and settle for them as our personal (57).

This means each elevating the subject with direct household and mates in addition to broader causes are useful.

Examples of elevating the problem of weight stigma at a better stage embrace: lobbying the media to handle their portrayals of fats folks and supporting challenges to damaging public well being campaigns, such because the current Cancer Research UK marketing campaign the place the well being influence of weight problems was immediately in comparison with smoking on billboards (58).

To begin although, maybe first look to the various superb folks working to alter the dialog. Both for extra lived experiences of being fats, in addition to these working to alter the norm and maintain society accountable for the harm we’re doing.

What is most essential is that we’re open to criticism and prepared to recognise stigma and internalisation in ourselves. Only with this could we hope to handle the extent to which stigma is rooted in our tradition.


  • Fat activists and physique optimistic accounts on instagram (a choose few!): @bodyposipanda @yrfatfriend @scarrednotscared
  • Intuitive consuming: @evelyntribole (Book: Intuitive Eating. A revolutionary programme that works) @laurathomasphd (Book: ‘Just Eat it’ and podcast: ‘Don’t Salt My Game) @kristamurias @themindfuldietitian @nudenutrition @isarobinson_nutrition @foodandfearless @antidietriotclub
  • Other books: ‘Health at Every Size’ by Linda Bacon, ‘Eat Up’ by Ruby Tandoh, ‘Bad Science and the Truth about Healthy Eating’ by The Angry Chef.


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