Opening the dialogue on weight bias and stigma

Today three in five Canadians are classified as overweight or obese. According to Obesity Canada, the Canadian Medical Association, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization obesity is classified as a progressive chronic disease and a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stoke, cancer, arthritis and other detrimental health issues.

Weight needs to be addressed as an integrated and preventative piece in healthcare, but this topic often brings extreme controversy and a slew of emotions. The subject of weight is frequently pushed to the curb because it can be uncomfortable to bring up. Why? This is because weight is often associated with negative biases and stigmas – views that come from ourselves and those perpetuated by others.

Weight bias is defined as the negative attitudes and views about obesity and about those living with obesity. Meanwhile, weight stigmas are the social stereotypes and misconceptions about obesity. When we promote personal biases and social stereotypes and treat people with obesity unfairly, this becomes weight discrimination. Such treatment closes people off to talking about their weight.   

So how can we open the dialogue on weight to address health in a positive and respectful manner? One way is to reflect on our existing views and engage with this topic more mindfully: through thoughts, our choice of words and how we care for others – choosing empathy and compassion over judgment and criticism. This includes active listening, acknowledging and being sensitive to the factors that may influence health behaviours resulting in weight changes.

It’s important to address the social, cultural, financial and environmental influences from peers, family, workplaces, community settings, social media, advertising, and many others, that have daily impacts on a person’s health. At Get Well Clinic, we integrate this ethos into our multidisciplinary practice to help individuals reach their health goals while providing compassionate care that addresses the mind, body and spirit.    

Visit www.getwellforlife.ca or call 416-508-5691 for more information about our Weight Management Program.