Research has shown that weight bias can threaten people's physical and mental health, which makes it especially important for the medical community to take special care when discussing obesity. Unfortunately, a recent report in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet is not at the height. The report, which highlights the connections between obesity, malnutrition and climate change, is the result of a three-year effort involving 26 authors from 14 countries. While the authors criticize the discrimination against individuals who have a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range, they do so in a way that reflects and perpetuates bias. This is worrying.
The good, a little & # 39;
The authors stress that "in most Western cultures, obesity is seen as a personal failure rather than a predictable consequence of normal people interacting with obesogenic environments". Consider obesity as a personal failure leading to a weight bias, which manifests itself in many ways. Consider the dehumanizing, headless images of "butts and guts" of larger bodies used in the media and the stereotype that people in larger bodies are stupid, lazy, sloppy, unhappy and incompetent.
This bias not only creates barriers to higher education, jobs and promotions, studies show that it leads heavier people to avoid seeking medical care. In one study, signs of cancer were erased as part of patient obesity. When people in larger bodies – especially women – suffer prejudices from their health care providers, they are less likely to return to regular preventive health care. This is a big problem.
The report goes on to state that society should not discriminate against people with obesity because it is a "predictable consequence of normal people interacting with obesogenic environments". In other words: don't discriminate against people with obesity, because they can't help it. They are sick.
However, the reason society should not discriminate against people with obesity is because discriminating against people based on their appearance is wrong. People of all shapes, sizes, nuances and abilities are worthy of respect and fair treatment.
It doesn't help that the authors accuse obesity of a bad quality of the diet, even because of the modern food environment. This perpetuates the myth that fat people are fat because they eat many fast foods and other ultra-processed foods. This is far from a universal truth.
Moreover, the report "
The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition and Climate Change "is flooded with the same obscure and harmful language used in almost all articles on obesity. Firstly, it refers to obesity as an epidemic ( together with under-nutrition and climate change, to be honest, a syndemic is a synergistic epidemic) that invokes the "health and economic burdens caused by obesity". It is even equivalent to the economic costs of obesity to expenses incurred by smoking or armed violence and war.
The discussion on the malnutrition of the relationship does not elicit the same negative analogies, even if its estimated costs are much greater, which raises a question: why do we not constantly hear of "malnutrition epidemic" or "war on malnutrition"?
The "first person" language is not a solution
As with most health care providers who try to avoid contributing to weight stigma, the authors use – and encourage – the person's language, stressing that "an obese person" is an identity that suggests personal responsibility ( still, unfairly, because many factors determine body weight), while "a person with obesity" is a person with an illness.
The problem is that the first language of the person ignores that the word "obesity" is charged with stigma, regardless of how it is used in a sentence. This despite – or perhaps because of – the 2013 decision of the American Medical Association to classify obesity as a disease, going against the recommendations of its own Council for Science and Public Health. Today, being a "person with obesity" must be considered sick, regardless of general health and health behaviors. The word "obese" is contested both as an amateur diagnosis and as a weapon, designed for shame, silence and dehumanization. Check out comments on any Instagram photos of a so-called obesity woman, even if she is exercising.
It's time to change
We need a new approach. This new strategy, however, should not only involve trying to propose other less stigmatizing ways of saying "person with obesity" or "obesity epidemic" (in the case of this last, we should simply stop saying it). Instead, we should focus on public policies that make it easier for everyone to find and offer nutritional food, live in a safe and healthy environment, eat well-balanced meals and be physically active. This will promote well-being for all people, regardless of their weight, especially if we also want to examine and challenge our stereotypes and prejudices. So maybe we can leave the obsessive fixation on the weight – which is not a behavior – in the rearview mirror.
Dennett is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Carrie Nutrition.