Weight Bias

Weight Bias2024-02-23T01:20:17-05:00

It’s time to end this socially acceptable prejudice.

Canadians living with obesity face widespread weight bias and weight-based discrimination from strangers, educators, employers, health professionals, media and even friends and family.

Weight bias refers to negative attitudes and views about obesity and about people with obesity

Experiencing weight bias can have negative consequences for individuals, including feelings of shame and blame, anxiety, depression, poor self-esteem and body dissatisfaction that can lead to unhealthy weight-control practices.

Weight stigma refers to social stereotypes and misconceptions about obesity. These social stereotypes and misconceptions include beliefs that  people with obesity are lazy, awkward, sloppy, non-compliant, unintelligent, unsuccessful and lacking self-discipline or self-control.

If you have ever been the victim of weight discrimination, you are not alone. Read on to learn more about what it is, how it can it can affect you and steps that you can take to eliminate this issue.

What causes weight bias and discrimination?

Weight bias and stigma can lead to weight discrimination. This is when we enact our personal biases and the social stereotypes about obesity and treat people with obesity unfairly.

The unfair treatment that people with obesity face is called obesity stigmatization or weight discrimination.

“Look what he’s done to himself, if only he had some self-control, or wasn’t so lazy”.

Obesity is a medical condition that can be caused by multiple factors. However, people often think that individuals living with obesity are personally responsible for their weight because they just eat too much or do not exercise enough. This belief is a fundamental driver of weight bias, stigma and discrimination.

Stigmatization and discrimination can be seen in:

  • Verbal and emotional discrimination, when individuals are teased, insulted, made fun of or rejected by their friends, family and peers (e.g. weight-based bullying in schools and employment settings)
  • Physical discrimination, when individuals are assaulted or harassed because of their weight
  • Barriers in day-to-day life (e.g., undersized chairs in public locations or lack of appropriate-sized medical equipment such as blood pressure cuffs and patient gowns)
  • Denial of access to healthcare (e.g. when treatments for obesity are not available or not reimbursed by health plans)

“Maybe if she exercised more she wouldn’t look like that.”

What are the consequences of weight discrimination?

Weight discrimination can affect individual’s access to education, employment and medical care, causing health and social inequalities. Stigma and weight discrimination is an added burden to individuals’s health and can be a barrier to weight management.

Additional resources: (Click on text to open)

Click here to open our weight bias infographic

Person First Language Briefing Note (2019)

Supportive Obesity Care website from the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy and Health

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