Obesity: The Increasing Stigma


By Joseph Jacob

Imagine being judged and defined by the way you look. Imagine being discriminated against or ostracized based on characteristics that will never define your personality. More often than not, the way we are perceived by others is important in shaping our own self-image. That said, it becomes increasingly important for us to support and accept one another despite our insignificant differences, especially with regards to weight. According to a recent study, the problems of stigmatization of people, especially children, who are obese has only increased from the 1960s to early 2000s (Latner). The stereotype that those with obesity lack willpower and discipline is ever-present— if not on the rise— and is hardly ever challenged as evidence with bullying, rejection, and prejudice (Puhl). And in fact many factors can be predisposed to the stigma surrounding obesity including the media, employment, health care, and interpersonal relationships (Puhl).

This mentality can have adverse effects including but not limited to: psychological consequences, social inequality, and a low quality of life (Puhl). Moreover, this weight bias can lead to social rejection and can even lead to thoughts of depression, suicide, and eating disorders.

The consequences are certainly far-reaching and require further inquiry. While obesity may be an issue in terms of health, stigmatization and disenfranchisement are not remedies, but harmful. Weight gain is common, but the best way to improve upon it is through healthy lifestyle changes, not through shaming others who may resort to dangerous eating habits. Emphasis should be placed on health as opposed to a number (i.e. body weight and BMI). While obesity may be unhealthy, eating disorders and extreme dieting are far more detrimental. Thus, it is imperative that individuals strive for health, not body image.

 

References:

Latner, Janet D., and Albert J. Stunkard. “Getting Worse: The Stigmatization of Obese

Children.” Obesity Research 11.3 (2003): 452-56. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

 

Puhl, Rebecca M. “Health Consequences of Weight Stigmatization and the Contribution to

Obesity and Eating Disorders.” Yale Rudd Center (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 21 Nov. 2014.

 

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