Obesity stigma is pervasive & resilient. A landmark statement demands we eliminate the gap between the social narrative and scientific evidence.
Declaring weight stigma "...unacceptable in modern societies," a new multinational consensus statement published March 4, 2020, in Nature Medicine, focuses on the pervasive and enduring gap between the stigmatizing, destructive public narrative around obesity and current scientific evidence and understanding of body-weight regulation. Consensus authors, led by Francesco Rubino, MD, professor and chair, bariatric and metabolic surgery, King's College London, UK, write that the initiative's goal to focus on the disparity between science and perception sets it apart from previous related efforts.Â Â We offer the statement's executive summary below, point-by-point, in an easy-to-read slide show. Scroll through for the panel's core recommendations - then use this link to read the full document.
"This is big and it will take something big to reverse the problem of weight bias," said Ted Kyle, RPh, MBA, founder of ConscienHealth and member of the expert consensus panel. "We all owe Dr Rubino a huge debt of gratitude for his leadership in forging this global consensus and we're proud to be a part of it. It's a signifncant step in the direction of a more effective response to obesity."
Impediment to physical, emotional care. Research indicates that weight stigma can cause significant harm to affected individuals. Individuals who experience it suffer from both physical and psychological consequences, and are less likely to seek and receive adequate care.
Science, public perception at odds. Weight stigma is reinforced by misconceived ideas about body-weight regulation and lack of awareness of current scientific evidence. Weight stigma is unacceptable in modern societies, as it undermines human rights, social rights, and the health of afflicted individuals. GoC: A
Personal choice vs disease. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, the prevailing view in society is that obesity is a choice that can be reversed by voluntary decisions to eat less and exercise more. These assumptions mislead public health policies, confuse messages in popular media, undermine access to evidence-based treatments, and compromise advances in research.
Barriers to disease management. For these reasons, weight stigma represents a major obstacle in efforts to effectively prevent and treat obesity and type 2 diabetes. Tackling stigma is not only a matter of human rights and social justice, but also a way to advance prevention and treatment of these diseases. GoC: A
Education, policy, public narrative. Academic institutions, professional organizations, media, public health authorities, and government should encourage education about weight stigma and facilitate a new public narrative of obesity, coherent with modern scientific knowledge.
Weight-based stereotypes include generalizations that individuals with overweight or obesity are: Lazy, gluttonous, lacking in willpower and self-discipline, incompetent, unmotivated to improve their health, non-compliant with medical treatment, personally to blame for their higher body weight.
Weight stigma refers to social devaluation and denigration of individuals because of their excess body weight, and can lead to negative attitudes, stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. Weight discrimination refers to overt forms of weight-based prejudice and unfair treatment (biased behaviors) toward individuals with overweight or obesity.
Weight bias internalization occurs when individuals engage in self-blame and self-directed weight stigma because of their weight. Weight bias internalization includes agreement with stereotypes and application of these stereotypes to oneself and self-devaluation.