BY: Christine Peat, PhD
DATE: September 27, 2016
The dominant culture in the United States has become increasingly weight-focused. Women and men are inundated on a daily basis with commercials about the latest diets, television shows that glamorize unhealthy weight loss practices, and a pervasive message that “thin = good.” Perhaps even more insidious is the message of needing to be “healthy,” which is often times a guise for restrictive eating practices and defined by rigidity in terms of weight, diet, and exercise. Collectively, these cultural forces (although perhaps well-meaning at times) converge to create a narrow definition of what it means to be healthy and, in turn, acceptable in our society. Those who do not fit this mold are often subject to weight stigma: the social devaluation and denigration of people perceived to carry excess weight. Troublingly, this form of stigma has well-documented negative impact on individuals in nearly every context: children with larger bodies are bullied in school and/or treated poorly by teachers, higher weight individuals are less likely to be hired, and higher weight patients may be perceived as unpleasant, weak-willed, or lazy by healthcare professionals which can lead to decreased utilization of important healthcare services.
Given the above, a growing need has emerged for conversation about weight stigma and the very real damage it can create. Encouragingly, the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) has stepped up to the plate to initiate important dialogue about weight stigma and its consequences. In fact, this week (September 26th-30th) marks the third annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week (WSAW) – an online event hosted BEDA designed to bring awareness to and create discussion around weight stigma. The 2016 theme for WSAW is “Teaching Kids the Truth” and focuses on weight bias and body image in pediatric populations and the importance of adults modeling healthy behaviors (and discussion) around children’s weight. The week will be filled with various free and informative online events including:
- A podcast with Aaron Flores, RDN featuring Carmen Cool, MA, LPC and a group of teens and young adults discussing weight, health, bias, and social justice
- Clinical blog posts by Ashley Solomon, PsyD, Kathy Kater, LICSW, Jocelyn Lebow, PhD; Lauren Mulheim, PsyD, and Jennifer Copeland, PsyD
- Personal narrative blog posts by Ragen Chastain, Kimberly Dark, Naomi Ortiz, and Melissa Mazza
- A video installment by Tammy Kremer portraying the effects of weight stigma
- A video by YouTuber and eating disorder activist Matt Shepherd
We encourage you to learn more about weight stigma and participate in the various events for WSAW 2016! Look for #WSAW2016 on social media and use the hashtag when posting about WSAW on your various social media outlets. The week-long event is designed to create a viral presence on social media to help increase the visibility of this often neglected social stigma – so tweet, share, and snap away! Your voice matters in this discussion and has the power to contribute to meaningful change.
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