For many years there has been a huge focus on trying to attain an ‘ideal’ body weight, in an attempt to be healthy. Well, the focus has changed, and there is new way of thinking called ‘Health at Every Size’, which celebrates body diversity and helps fight against weight bias. Weight bias refers to negative attitudes and views towards obesity and people with obesity. Experiencing weight bias can have negative consequences for individuals, including feelings of shame, anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction which can lead to unhealthy weight-control practices.
Some common stereotypes and misconceptions that can cause weight bias include believing that people with obesity are lazy, awkward, sloppy, unintelligent, unsuccessful and lacking self-discipline or self-control. In truth, if you have obesity, you are an individual just like everyone else and have individual traits and characteristics.
Another misconception is that body weight is the best measure of health, however, individuals can maintain good health over a wide range of body weights. To accurately measure health, weight should be used alongside other health indicators, such as blood cholesterol or blood pressure.
Lastly, some may feel that forcing people to take responsibility for their weight is the best way to facilitate behavior change, but research demonstrates that shame does not motivate but rather stops behavior change. Instead, here are some health centered tips to help promote a healthy lifestyle and minimize weight bias:
1. Remember to start any conversation regarding someone’s weight with respect because it is a very personal topic that many individuals are self-conscious of.
2. Emphasize health-promoting behaviors such as stress management, regular sleep patterns, and healthy eating and exercise, rather than weight loss itself.
3. Understand that food is more than just fuel. We have complex relationships with food that encompasses social, emotional, and cultural beliefs and experiences.
4. Understand that there are many factors that can contribute to a person’s weight, including genetics, access to food, income, skills, activity levels, and one’s support system.
Remember that everyone is unique, we all have different health strengths and weaknesses, no matter what our size!
Health at Every Size. HAES Community, 2019.
Weight Bias. Obesity Canada, 2018.
A Balanced View. BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services, 2015.