BEDA promotes cultural acceptance of, and respect for, the natural diversity of sizes, as well as promoting a goal of improved health, which may or may not include weight change. The views expressed by our featured bloggers are their own.
Margarita Tartakovsky writes the blog Weightless, which focuses on helping women love their bodies and themselves, at any and every size, shape and weight. She’s also an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, where she writes about everything from anxiety and ADHD to creativity and couples.
7 Ways to Combat Weight Stigma
Weight stigma has many faces. It happens when we judge others because of their size, shape or weight. It happens on the school bus, the big screen, the doctor’s office, the dinner table and at work.
It happens when we tease a person about their weight gain or loss. Or when we make assumptions about someone because they’re bigger or smaller or somewhere in between.
It’s when we assume fat people are lazy or unhealthy or incompetent. It’s even when we think real women have curves. (All women, no matter their shape, size or weight are real.)
Weight stigma also involves making disparaging judgments about ourselves. It’s when we think we’re worthless because of our wide waist or big thighs. It’s when we make digs about our dress size. Or when we think we’re not deserving of respect or compassion because of the number on the scale.
What You Can Do
Fortunately, there are many ways to combat weight stigma. Here are several ideas to get you started:
- Examine your own biases. First, it’s vital to start with yourself. Look inward. Look at your own thoughts and feelings surrounding weight, both others’ weight and your own. Do you make certain assumptions about people based on their appearance? Do you judge a person’s behavior based on their size? Does your weight determine how you feel about yourself?
- Challenge your own beliefs. Next consider if those beliefs are truly valid. Are all thin people healthy? Are all fat people unhealthy? Do you really only deserve love and respect if you’re a certain size?
- Get educated. Learn more about weight stigma, its damaging and dangerous consequences, and how you can help. Learn about Health At Every Size, a movement that “acknowledges that well-being and healthy habits are more important than any number on the scale,” as researcher and author Linda Bacon writes in her excellent book Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. You’ll find great information on Bacon’s website, which features a wealth of resources. For instance, there’s a message for people who have diseases that are blamed on their weight. Also, check out the Health At Every Size blog; the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance; and the Association for Size Diversity and Health.
- Speak up. If you hear someone making a disparaging remark about another person’s weight, speak up. It might even trigger a good discussion. If you see an ad or article that perpetuates weight stigma, contact the company or email the writer. If you’ve experienced discrimination or bullying, pen a blog post about it (if you feel comfortable). Write a piece about ways to combat weight stigma. Show your support for others sharing their experience by commenting on their blog or sharing their writing on social media.
- Refrain from weight talk. In our culture, it’s common to bash our bodies, comment on other people’s appearance and talk about the calories in the dessert we’re not having, because we can’t, because it’ll go straight to our hips or thighs or stomach. For some of us, this is how we bond. But imagine the amazing conversations you can have and the deep connections you can make when calories, scales and criticisms aren’t mentioned. When we don’t make rude remarks about others, and instead take the time to focus on examining our own issues, improving our own lives and enjoying the company of others.
- Take great care of yourself. You don’t need to lose or gain weight to be healthy. You don’t need to be shackled to the scale weighing yourself daily or weekly. You don’t need to conform to someone else’s ideals or try to change anything about yourself. Focus on your well-being, not your weight. Focus on taking gentle, compassionate care of yourself. Focus on cultivating healthy, nourishing habits, such as getting enough sleep, engaging in physical activities you actually enjoy, listening to your body’s hunger and satiety cues, savoring rest and setting physical and emotional boundaries. Whatever your weight, shape or size, focus on building a healthy, loving relationship with yourself.
- Remind yourself and others that body diversity is beautiful. I love what Bacon writes in her book: “Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Open to the beauty found across the spectrum and support others in recognizing their unique attractiveness.” In particular, be sure to share this message with kids and teens, who are especially swayed by society’s damaging standards.
Unfortunately, weight stigma still exists. Fortunately, you have the power to create positive change. Remember that there are many ways to speak up. Start by challenging your own beliefs and accepting yourself exactly as you are.