Today’s blog post comes from Lisa Schaffer, Chair of the Public Engagement Committee. 

Today is World Obesity Day and I am excited!

If you had told me there would be a time when I would be excited to talk about World Obesity Day, I would not have believed you. 

Heck, if you told me there would be a time when I was comfortable just saying the word obesity on a daily basis, I may have even laughed at you.

Until recently I struggled with the word obesity. And I know I am not alone.

It isn’t about the definition of the word it was the word itself. I struggled to use it in conversation. I struggled just saying I am a volunteer at Obesity Canada. 

The word obesity just felt wrong coming out of my mouth. It felt like it was all knees and elbows. Embarrassing. It felt like it instantly made everything uncomfortable.

But why? It is just a word.

As a representative of Obesity Canada, it was clearly essential for me to work through my discomfort with the word but I also wanted to understand why this discomfort existed in the first place. That meant getting real about the bias and stigma that surrounds the word obesity.

Upon reflection, the word obesity has rarely been part of positive conversations in my life. My experience is the use of the word in a pejorative way, especially in medical settings. And, most problematically, the word obesity is often attached to feelings of moral judgment. 

Society has bombarded me with the message that to live with obesity is to be a failure and as a result, in my brain, “obesity” instantly equated to being a person that didn’t care enough to take care of herself. That I had no self-control, that I must be smelly and unhealthy. Unloveable.

Slowing down and challenging myself to rethink what obesity means has been key to getting good with using the word.

I understand and advocate passionately about obesity as a chronic disease and now use the word obesity with confidence. Armed with evidence-based facts and a healthier understanding of obesity, I am able to share my story with the hope that others will connect with my experiences and that they will share their story too. The more of us that show up empowered to talk about obesity invested in helping others challenge their narrative about obesity – the more we will be able to impact change.

So today World Obesity Day 2020 I am excited to share my story. I am excited to volunteer my time to fundraise for Obesity Canada. I am excited to see a global presence of passionate advocates busting bias, challenging stigma and sharing their personal stories, because it is time to change the narrative around obesity.

Let’s do this!

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Photo: “• O” by  marc carpentier/Flickr/CC BY 2.0