#BreakTheStigma Features BEDA and Weight Stigma

#BreakTheStigmaBEDA addresses weight stigma in Counseling@Northwestern’s #BreakTheStigma campaign to raise awareness of mental health and stop the stigma surrounding it.

In Spotlight On: The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), BEDA explains why weight stigma is so damaging and provides statistics on just how widespread weight bias and discrimination are in our culture.

Weight stigma: culturally validated, emotionally devastating

Few people are aware of weight stigma, because our culture validates it. Yet, the scope of weight stigma is vast, and its damage is deep. Judgment, shaming, blaming, bullying, and discrimination based on body size is everywhere—at home and work, in schools and doctors’ offices, on the playing field and playground. And individuals living in larger bodies are assaulted by weight stigma every day, everywhere they go.

Both researchers and treatment practitioners have found it is mainly the stigmatizing experience—not the weight itself—that leads to adverse outcomes, because it induces shame. Negative effects include eating disorders, such as BED, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, poor body image, long-term weight cycling, lower rates of recovery, and greater chances of having suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Weight stigma is widespread

  • Weight discrimination occurs more frequently than gender or age discrimination
  • Weight discrimination has increased 66 percent in the last decade
  • Weight bias translates into inequities in employment settings (such as lower wages), health care facilities (such as lower quality of care), and educational institutions, often due to widespread negative stereotypes that overweight and obese persons are lazy, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant, and sloppy
    Peer victimization can be directly predicted by weight
  • Obese youth victimized by peers are 2 to 3 times more likely to exhibit suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • Weight bias in the medical setting leads to greater frequency of stigma, which is positively related to increased BMI and poorer psychological functioning, such as higher levels of depression, psychiatric symptoms, body image distress, and lower levels of self-esteem
  • Weight-based teasing predicted binge eating at five years of follow-up among both men and women, even after controlling for age, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status

(Source: research conducted by Dr. Rebecca Puhl, deputy director of the Yale Rudd Center on Food Policy and Obesity)

BEDA’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week

This year’s Weight Stigma Awareness Week is September 21-25 and will focus on weight bullying.