Weight bias is an issue that we need to discuss more. People who are overweight or diagnosed with obesity have likely faced some sort of stigma their entire life. Sometimes it could have been from strangers, other times from employers, coworkers, friends, or even family. Its important to mention that often the perpetrator of the bias does it on purpose. Some people are just mean.
Others however do not understand how they come across. These people are usually friends and family who mean well but unintentionally stigmatize others. While good intent is important, it does not make weight bias okay. So what is weight bias? It can be described as stereotyping or discriminating somebody because of their weight. In everyday practice this looks like:
1. Doctors who do not provide large enough chairs for patients with Obesity.
2. Medical providers looking at patients with Obesity as liabilities and risky.
3. Peers and family members inferring their loved ones with obesity are just lazy.
4. People with obesity not getting the same opportunities at work because of their weight and appearance.
5. People with obesity being the victim of many cruel jokes and bullying.
6. People thinking bariatric surgery patients “took the easy way out.”
Anybody is capable of intentionally or accidentally participating in weight bias. It is very harmful to the victim and can often cause long term psychological effects. It is our job at the Mindful Living Institute to educate and inform people on weight-bias. We aim to work with non-profits like the Obesity Action Coalition to create more conversations bringing awareness to weight bias. The more we talk about it, the less it will occur.
I am not speaking from theory but from personal experience. Until I went to the Your Weight Matters 2018 conference hosted by the Obesity Action Coalition I was extremely bias against patients who took the bariatric surgery route. Then I spoke to these patients and learned it was one of the hardest things they ever had to do in their entire lives.
This made me realize that I was wrong. I am grateful that patients and industry experts were both invited to that conference. It shed light on a blind spot I had about my own weight bias. After speaking to bariatric surgery patients, I had the empathy I needed to let go of my bias. For this reason I look forward to traveling with the Mindful Living Family to Tampa for Your Weight Matters 2019. I know we will continue to discuss how our industry can combat weight bias.