The Obesity Stigma

The Obesity Stigma

The Obesity Stigma Dr. Green


“She’s just a little bit chubby”, “she’s fatty but healthy”, “don´t eat more tortillas because you´re already fat”, “another bite, chubby gal?”, “you can´t play because you run very slow”. Phrases like these are constantly said without hesitation by relatives, friends, colleagues, classmates, neighbors or acquaintances, making negative references about the appearance of adults, young boys or girls, and children with overweight or obesity.

Perhaps at some point, we ourselves have also been part of situations like this. Maybe we could have standardized this as a joke. But it is a serious reality for a great number of people suffering obesity or overweight in the world.

The social stigma associated with someone’s weight comes to be assumed as a tacit fact in our subconscious when we consider someone different from us because he or she is “chubby” or “fatty”, and we exclude them from our social, family or work circle.

Negative beliefs and attitudes such as these are socially exhibited as prejudgments and stereotypes, defining obese people as lazy people without discipline, and less attractive.

Weight stigma is very present in daily life producing serious consequences, like negative and excluding experiences at work, school, and in social circles.

Stigmatization has consequences

These experiences of exclusion and marginalization are generally growing like a snowball and cause more and more health risks, which may include these consequences:

  • Psychological: depression, anxiety or low self-esteem.
  • Social: social rejection and low quality or harmful relationships.
  • Physical: unhealthy weight control practices, binge eating, and evasion of physical activity.

The trace of this can become very big, and people with obesity or overweight ended up convinced of all they have listened since childhood. This self-stigma impacts their life in such a way that it permeates even in their workplaces. There their coworkers and bosses come to perceive them as less capable, less competent, lazy and lacking self-discipline.

Such perception may even have a negative impact on their salary, a job promotion, and decisions about their work status. Experimental studies also show that obese applicants are less likely to be hired than those who are thin, even though they have the same job skills.

What can you do?

Right now, a first step we all can take today is to eliminate from our thoughts the common belief that people can control overweight and obesity with diet or exercise.

Instead of this, we have to understand that the causes of obesity involve biological, psychological and social issues. Those aspects disturb the environment of people who suffer it, promoting and intensify this condition.

Also, consider that obesity and overweight cause many serious diseases that put at risk the life of the patients.

I invite you to meditate on your own stereotypes to help stop seeing this as something normal and easy to solve.

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