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What can we do about weight distortions?




Positive images of people with larger bodies are rare in today's media. (iStock)

Research has shown that weight loss can threaten people's physical and mental health. Therefore, it is imperative for the medical community to take special care in the treatment of obesity. Unfortunately, a report recently published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet is too short. The report, which highlights the links between obesity, malnutrition and climate change, is the result of a three-year effort by 26 authors from 14 countries. While the authors criticize discrimination against those who have a body mass index (BMI) in the obese area, they do so in a way that reflects and sustains prejudice. That is disturbing.

The nature of

The authors point out that "in most Western cultures, obesity is regarded as a personal failure rather than a predictable consequence of normal people interacting with overweight environments." Recognizing obesity as a personal failure leads to this to a weight distortion that manifests itself in many ways. Consider the dehumanizing, headless "bums and guts" of larger bodies used in the media and the stereotype that people in larger bodies are stupid, lazy, sloppy, unhappy and incompetent.

These prejudices not only create barriers to higher education, jobs and promotions, but studies show that heavier people avoid seeking medical care. In one study, signs of cancer were written off as part of the obesity of patients. When people in larger corporations – especially women – experience prejudices against their health care providers, they are less likely to return to receive regular health care. That is a big problem.

The Bad

The report then says that society should not discriminate against people with obesity, as this is a "predictable consequence of normal people with whom they interact Obesogenic environments. In other words, do not discriminate against people with obesity because they can not help. You are sick.

The reason why society should not discriminate against overweight people is that discrimination based on their appearance is wrong. People of all shapes, sizes, colors and abilities deserve respect and fair treatment.

It does not help that the authors blame obesity for poor nutritional quality, although this is due to the modern food environment. This perpetuates the myth that fat people are fat because they eat a lot of fast food and other ultra-processed foods. This is anything but a universal truth.

The Ugly

Also, the report "

The Global Syndrome of Obesity, Malnutrition and Climate Change" in the same gloomy language that is used in almost every language flooded every paper on obesity. First, obesity is considered an epidemic (along with malnutrition and climate change, to be fair, a syndrome is a synergistic epidemic) that relies on the "health and economic burdens of obesity". It even equals the economic cost of obesity to the cost of smoking or armed violence and war.

The discussion of the report on malnutrition does not lead to the same negative analogies, although their estimated costs are much higher, raising a question: why not constantly hear of "the malnutrition epidemic" or the "war on malnutrition"?

"Person-first" language is not a solution

As with most health professionals who try to avoid contributing to weight stigma, the authors use – and encourage – person-to-be mother tongue, being noted that "an obese person" is an identity that points to personal responsibility (again wrongly, since many factors determine body weight), while "a person with obesity" is a person with a disease.

The problem is ignoring personal first language that the word "overweight" is not loaded with stigma matter as you use it in a sentence. This is despite or perhaps because of the American Medical Association's decision in 2013 to classify obesity as a disease that violates the recommendations of its own Science and Public Health Council. To be considered a "person with obesity" is today considered ill, regardless of general health and health-related behavior. The word "obese" is used as an amateur diagnosis and as a weapon to cause shame, silence and dehumanization. Watch the comments on every Instagram photo of a so-called woman with obesity, even if she is exercising.

It's time for change

We need a new approach. However, this new strategy should not simply try to find other, less stigmatizing ways to say "person with obesity" or "obesity epidemic" (in the case of the latter we should not even say it anymore). , Instead, we should focus on public policies that make it easier for everyone to find and deliver food, live in a safe and healthy environment, eat well-balanced meals, and be physically active. This promotes the well-being of all people regardless of their weight – especially if we are willing to examine and question our own stereotypes and prejudices. Then maybe we can leave the obsessive fixation on weight – which is not behavior – in the rearview mirror.

Dennett is a registered nutritionist and owner of Nutrition by Carrie.


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