National Eating Disorders Association

In 2017, jobs site Fairygodboss showed a picture of a larger-bodied woman to 500 hiring professionals and asked if they would consider employing her. Only 15.6% of respondents said they would.

Many healthcare providers struggle with how or why weight stigma is a public health concern.  The truth is, if you care about health, you should care about weight stigma.  The two issues are not mutually exclusive. For years, I have taken care of patients of various ages who struggle with eating disorders. More frequently than not, the onset of their eating disorder is linked to experiencing some form of weight stigma.

The topic of body image is a constant discussion topic in the eating disorders community, especially more and more as we begin to see the harmful effects of diet culture and the prevalence of anti-fat bias. The deeper we dive into the subject, the more we learn how weight stigma affects our bodies. Well, not really all bodies. We know a lot about how it affects one specific type of body—the white cis-gendered female one.

Gather ‘round, kids.  

Once upon a time, when I arrived for psychology grad school on the west coast, I started a dance class for fat women. “We Dance” was emphatically not a weight loss environment, but rather a place where a lively bunch of folks partied with me every week. We were such a curiosity at the time that we were brought on talk shows and interviewed for the papers. 

As a person who’s never been fat, I’m not an authority on weight stigma. And as a person in recovery from an eating disorder (ED), it can sometimes be difficult to think of myself as thin. But when I look at the realities of my experience, there’s a lot of privilege there. I never need to worry if I’ll be kicked off an airplane due to my size, if a doctor will refuse to treat me, or if my ED will be taken seriously in treatment.  

Like many women of my generation, I grew up hating my body. I learned to do that from the culture, the media, and especially my family. The first thing any of the women in my family said to each other was either You look great—have you lost weight? Or God, I’m such a whale, I really need to lose five pounds. To be a woman, I learned, was to constantly strive toward an impossible threshold of thinness, and to willingly join in on the public criticism of my body. 

Message from Chevese Turner, Chief Policy & Strategy Officer, regarding Dr. Oliver-Pyatt's contributions to WSAW:

Weight stigma is a real thing, and something that I am directly impacted by. To put it into perspective, I went out this past weekend and I was feeling hot—I was feeling myself 150%. The next day, I did something that I never do, something that I advise people not to do, but I did it anyway. I jumped on the scale. Immediately, I went from feeling hot to almost hating myself in a matter of seconds. 

In the eating disorders community, we often hear the phrase “Not every diet leads to an eating disorder, but every eating disorder starts with a diet.” That’s true, but if we really want to prevent eating disorders and allow for full recovery, we can’t stop there. We have to ask ourselves the next logical question: Where do the diets come from?

NEDA’s merger with BEDA last fall was an important step toward unifying the eating disorders community and improving access to services and support across the entire spectrum of these illnesses. NEDA is committed to continuing many of the contributions BEDA made to the eating disorders field. Today, we are excited to announce the continuation of Weight Stigma Awareness Week which was established in 2011.