3 Ways to Fight Obesity Discrimination
A friend of mine is a vegan. She just happens to be obese. Another friend of mine is a fitness instructor, she too is obese. People may assume if you’re obese, you overeat all the time, don’t exercise regularly, or eat junk food without abandon. My personal experience tells me this is not so. While excess calories is what leads to obesity, there truly are complex factors at work that go beyond how much we put on our plates, including accidents, injuries, and metabolic factors that contribute to weight gain. Obese people are not a monolithic group of lazy, hungry people who sit on the couch all day. Because the media regularly portrays overweight and obese people this way, it’s hard for some to see themselves in a positive light. Research has shown this weight stigma goes along with actual obesity discrimination to create a terrible cycle of silence, suffering, and shame. Whether you’re formerly obese, moving toward a normal weight, or struggling with how to handle your own obesity, know that you’re not alone. With the majority of Americans overweight or obese, it’s high time to face this issue head on and allow people to get on with living a healthy lifestyle without bias weighing them down.
Fight through feelings to avoid places where you feel you may not be welcomed. Because the perception of discrimination is harmful to your overall health, free yourself to show up and do those things that the media or others may not believe you are capable of doing. One study that examined photos of overweight and obese people in online news found that they are more likely to have their heads cut out of photos, be shown eating or drinking, and have their abdomens or lower bodies exposed. By showing your smiling face, going to a boot camp class, or allowing yourself to be seen dancing, you’re fighting the negative stereotypes of obese people the media portrays. Personal encounters of active, happy, and secure obese people can slowly change others' perceptions and your own. Studies show that the public prefers non-stigmatizing images. You can be that example that improves someone else’s attitude. Being berated, disrespected, or not taken seriously may cause embarrassment, but don’t let it keep you from taking care of yourself or doing what you love.
It’s not ok. I’ll repeat, it’s not ok. Whether it is your mother, your boss, your friend, or your own self, speaking ill of people because of their weight is not ok. A study of over 2,000 subjects found weight bias was primarily perpetuated by family members, doctors, classmates, sales clerks and friends. While you may not know what to say, say something against it. Speaking up that you don’t agree, don’t like judging others, or won’t tolerate the negative comments, will bring awareness to someone who may be oblivious to the pain their words cause. Much obesity discrimination goes beyond words. Particularly in the workplace. According to a new report in the International Journal of Obesity, a new universal measure of bias showed obese job applicants were perceived to be less desirable, less capable of leadership and having less career potential. By showing yourself and others on a balanced playing field, you can help change the face of obesity at your place of work. An article in the New York Times exposed obese people who filed lawsuits against companies who discriminated against them because of weight. While the legal aspect of fighting weight discrimination is convoluted, it’s better to ask for justice than to accept injustice.
Knowledge is power. By knowing that weight stigma has a negative impact on both the perpetrator and the victim, you can learn how to become a part of the solution. Learn to cope with weight stigma by educating yourself on how it may affect you. It is true that weight stigma may lead you to overeat, avoid social situations, or feel depressed. That is truth, it’s not your fault. By redirecting the blame, you can free yourself from shame and move toward making decisions that are best for you. A study of public health messages showed a focus on the physical aspect of obesity. Therefore, it's hard to find information about coping emotionally with obesity? Improving the psychological and social impact of obesity is just as important as starting an exercise routine and eating better. The first line of defense in fighting obesity discrimination is changing perceptions about what obese people are capable of. It’s easy to point the finger, but finding solutions means working with people who want and need help. If you’ve never been obese, it’s hard to support someone from a place of understanding. However, it’s unacceptable to exacerbate the problem of obesity discrimination by not even trying to stop it.
How do you fight obesity discrimination?
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