Let’s start by defining stigma.
Stigma refers to a negative attitude or belief that a person is different, inferior, or undeserving of respect. It can be based on a variety of characteristics and can have a significant impact on well-being, including mental health, by contributing to isolation, low self-esteem, and even physical health.
Weight stigma refers to these negative attitudes and beliefs regarding individuals who are overweight or obese. These attitudes can manifest in various forms, including teasing, bullying, discrimination, and exclusion.
The impact of weight stigma on mental health is thought to be related to the psychological and social stress that it creates. When individuals are stigmatized because of their weight, they may feel ashamed and embarrassed, or believe they are unworthy.
This can snowball into feelings and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and negative self-image.
In addition to the psychological and social stress that weight stigma creates, it can also have a physiological impact on the body. Chronic stress has been linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
It is important to recognize the impact that weight stigma can have on mental health and take steps to address it. This can include promoting body positivity, challenging negative stereotypes about individuals who are overweight, and advocating for policies that promote health and well-being rather than weight loss.
What drives stigma?
When it comes to obesity, the drivers of stigma are based around a misunderstanding of the complex causes.
Weight gain is often attributed to personal responsibility and fails to acknowledge other factors that drive it such as, biological factors, genetics, or the environment.
Focusing only on the personal responsibility (choosing foods and choosing exercise) ends up with blame on the person and perpetuates stereotyping.
Mental health professionals can also play a role in addressing weight stigma by recognizing it as a risk factor for poor mental health and providing support and resources to individuals who have experienced weight stigma.
At CoreLife, our professional behavioral health therapists help explore past (or current) experiences that may have led to low mood, sadness, lack of motivation, anxiety, avoidance or general coping in unhealthy ways.
Tips for avoiding weight stigma:
- Recognize and challenge your own biases: It is important to recognize that everyone has biases, including biases related to weight. Being aware of your own biases and challenging them can help you avoid stigmatizing others.
- Avoid making assumptions: Avoid making assumptions about individuals based on their weight. People’s weight does not necessarily reflect their health, fitness, or character.
- Promote body positivity: Promote the idea that all bodies are worthy of respect and dignity, regardless of their size or shape. Encourage self-acceptance and promote positive body image.
- Avoid using negative language: Avoid using language that stigmatizes individuals who are overweight or obese. This includes words like “fat,” “lazy,” or “unhealthy.”
- Focus on health, not weight: Instead of focusing on weight loss as the primary goal, focus on promoting overall health and well-being. Encourage healthy habits like regular exercise, balanced nutrition, and stress reduction, without stigmatizing individuals who may struggle with weight.
Weight stigma is a significant public health issue that can have a profound impact on mental health. By recognizing the negative consequences of weight stigma and taking steps to address it, we can promote greater health and well-being for all individuals, regardless of their weight.
CoreLife is not just another weight loss “program”. Our approach addresses your entire health profile, with medical oversight from doctors that are certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. We are proud to have created a new category of healthcare focused on comprehensive obesity treatment.
If you would like more information or are ready to take the next step on your health care journey, please contact us at https://corelifemd.com/contact-us/ or call us at (800) 905-3261.