Obesity is one of the most pressing health care issues in the world today. The obesity epidemic has been claiming 2.8 million lives every day according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Once, obesity was associated with high-income countries. But today, even developing and low-income countries have been following suit. Apart from the health risks obesity poses to a person’s life, there are also various other concomitant issues, one of which is the mental trauma caused by the weight stigma. Every year, on October 11, World Obesity Day is observed to find practical solutions to tackle the healthcare crisis. Keeping in mind the social stigma of weight gain, the theme this year is “End Weight Stigma.” The objective this year is to end the irresponsible portrayal of obesity in the media, which can drive negative stereotypes in society. Fat shaming and bullying can have a tangible impact on the mental health of people who are at the receiving end. For World Obesity Day 2018, the aim is to raise awareness about weight stigma and make concerted efforts to put an end to it. World Obesity Day 2018: 8 Scientific Tips To Beat Weight Gain Naturally.
What Is Weight Stigma?
Weight stigma is subjecting a person to negative treatment due to his or her weight. Acts such as body shaming can affect the overall health of the individual. Shaming individuals for their weight can have far-reaching repercussions on their mental wellness. It has been proven that fat shaming only adds to their stress and reinforces unhealthy eating behaviour as a coping mechanism. But despite this knowledge, addressing weight stigma has never been a priority.
How To End Weight Stigma?
To put an end to this problem, we should examine the role each of us plays in reinforcing negative stereotypes about weight and obesity. The first step is to differentiate between the myths and truths of obesity.
Not every fat person is lazy and not every skinny person is healthy. Avoid dehumanising stereotyping about people with the condition.
Changing language and attitude about obesity, is a good start. Instead of calling them “obese people”, try a people-first approach – “people with obesity.” It’s less offensive. Research says that using words such as “high BMI” are better than words like “obese” and “morbidly obese.”
Raise awareness how negative stereotyping and bullying people for their weight can harm their overall wellness. Engage more people, talk and listen. Help those affected break the barriers created by stigma and help them seek medical treatment for their condition.
The cruel irony is that unrealistic standards about beauty and fitness are encouraged in a world where the obesity epidemic is a reality. Media should have a moment of self-introspection for its role in promoting such unattainable ideals. Instead, they should work towards mainstreaming body shapes of all sizes through adequate representations in the media. A little responsibility from each of us will go a long way in eradicating this stigma. As a society, we should strive to be a part of the solution, not the problem.