To mark Weight Stigma Awareness Week (22nd-26th September), as an Eating Disorders therapist in Colchester, I want to joining this initiative by highlighting the emotional and physical damage that is being wreaked on individuals by our fat-shaming culture.
We live in a world where the word “fat” is used as an insult, and “have you lost weight?” is a compliment. Weight stigma has been called the “last acceptable prejudice".
One of the main areas of my work is helping to restore self-esteem to eating-disordered clients who have spent too many years feeling ashamed of the size or shape of their bodies. Feeling more confident often helps them to lose weight too, without any pressure.
It’s far easier to look after your body in a healthy way when you like yourself, but society tells us that anyone plus-sized deserves to be mistreated and needs to be shamed into losing weight. But in my experience of treating weight and eating issues, shame is at the root of the problem and over-eating is a symptom of that shame.
Recent studies have shown that exposure to weight stigma may lead to overeating (1) and avoidance of exercise (2). So it’s time we tackled “fat-shaming” in the same way as any other prejudice – as unacceptable behaviour. That way, people who are carrying extra weight can get on with enjoying their lives, accept their bodies, and let the weight fall where it will.
For more information and help with disordered eating, contact Alison Bird on 07947 817464 or www.alisonbird.co.uk. Alison Bird is an eating disorders therapist, affiliated with the National Centre for Eating Disorders, and a clinical hypnotherapist affiliated with the Association for Professional Hypnosis and Psychotherapy.
(1) The Impact of Weight Stigma on Caloric Consumption. Schvey, Puhl and Brownell, 6 September 2012. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2011.204/full
(2) Internalized Societal Attitudes Moderate the Impact of Weight Stigma on Avoidance of Exercise. Vartanian and Novak, 6 September 2012 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2010.234/full