If you have ever looked at a person who is overweight and made assumptions about their life like they must be lazy or lack willpower, you are guilty of weightism or weight stigma. If you have ever looked at a thin person and decided they must be healthy and self-disciplined, you are guilty of weightism. Weight stigma, which is also called weightism, weight bias, and weight discrimination, happens when a snap judgment is made about a person based solely on their size, weight, or body shape. It happens when we buy into standard weight-based stereotypes that define a person’s capabilities, intelligence, health, or abilities based on their size. This societal stigma can have far reaching consequences for all of us, regardless of our size.
Weight-discrimination is no different than any other kind of discrimination and it can affect a person’s ability to get an education and a job. It can negatively impact their self-esteem making it difficult for them to pursue their dreams or take advantage of opportunities that are available to them. Worse still, the external messages we get about our weight can change the way we see ourselves, turning our own inner voice into the most devastating critic of all.
Throughout our society, the beliefs behind weight stigma abound. Large-bodies are equated with laziness, lower intelligence, lack of self-control, lack of willpower, and lack of discipline. When someone has a thin body, we assume that they eat right, exercise religiously, take better care of themselves, are more attractive, and have iron-clad willpower. But basing these judgments about a person on the size and/or shape of their body does us all a disservice because it discounts our actual abilities, regardless of our size.
Ending weight stigma and creating a world where people of all shapes and sizes can live happy, healthy lives with the support of those around them are the goals of Weight Stigma Awareness Week. This awareness campaign, which runs from September 23-27 this year, is sponsored by the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA). Help spread the word about weight stigma and increase awareness about the damage it causes and work to end weight stigma forever.
BEDA encourages everyone to participate in this awareness week and has three ways that anyone can get involved.
- See Through…From Weight Stigma to Body Acceptance, a body sculpture challenge using something everyone has around the house, tape. Based on the work of artist Mark Jenkins, the life-size tape sculptures over a unique way to celebrate people of different sizes and shapes. For more information on how to participate in the See Through project, click here.
- Weight Stigma Awareness Week blog conference – Participate in awareness week by blogging about your personal experiences with weight stigma and weight discrimination. Share your blogs and read those submitted by others on BEDA’s website. For guidelines and additional information, click here.
- Follow along and participate via Twitter using hashtags #WSAW, #WEIGHTSTIGMA, #SeeThrough, #mentalhealth, #bullying