National Eating Disorders Association
Blog

NEDA Continues Legacy of Weight Stigma Awareness Week

Chevese Turner, Chief Policy & Strategy Officer

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. 

For the first time ever, NEDA will host the annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week (#WSAW2019) next week. Throughout the week of September 23rd through 27th, we encourage you all to explore the WSAW page on our website, to learn about weight stigma within and outside of the eating disorders community through daily blog posts from experts in the field, and to share our graphics and information about weight stigma. If comfortable, we welcome you to also share you own stories about how you have been impacted by weight stigma and/or discrimination. Don’t forget to use the hashtags: #WSAW2019, #ComeAsYouAre, and #NationalEatingDisordersAssociation on social media! 

During NEDA’s first Weight Stigma Awareness Week, we want to help the broader eating disorders community understand why weight stigma should matter to everyone, not only those in higher weight bodies. Especially when it comes to eating disorders—all eating disorders—we, as a community, need to understand how weight stigma and weight discrimination affect people of all sizes, how it contributes to or exacerbates eating disorders in people of all sizes, and how we call working together with a unified voice to eliminate stigma and discrimination based on body size. To this end, we’d like to answer a few questions. These questions and answers can also be found in a downloadable format here.

WHAT IS WEIGHT STIGMA?

Weight stigma, also known as weight bias or weight discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s size. Weight stigma also manifests in fat phobia, the dislike or fear of being or becoming fat. 

WHERE ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF WHERE WEIGHT STIGMA OCCURS?

  • Healthcare
  • Friends & Family
  • Education
  • (Social) Media
  • Wellness/Fitness Industry
  • Transportation, Housing, Employment, Etc.
  • Public Settings (for example: chair sizes in movie theaters or sporting events) 

I'M THIN AND HAVE NEVER BEEN IN A HIGHER WEIGHT BODY. HOW DOES WEIGHT STIGMA AFFECT ME?

Great question! Keep reading.  

WHY SHOULD WEIGHT STIGMA BE A CONCERN OF THE EATING DISORDERS COMMUNITY?

Everyone—in every size/shape body—deserves life-saving treatment, but weight stigma is a barrier to that for many people. People with all eating disorders come in all different sized bodies. Often, individuals, families and clinicians are resistant to weight gain that may result in a weight higher than which they are comfortable. 

HOW DOES WEIGHT STIGMA IMPACT PEOPLE WITH EATING DISORDERS AND IN RECOVERY FROM EATING DISORDERS?

Weight stigma prevents many people with eating disorders from being diagnosed with an eating disorder, seeking treatment for an eating disorder, and/or receiving treatment for an eating disorder. And weight stigma and fat phobia makes potential weight gain during recovery scary for those in any size body.  

HOW DOES THE EATING DISORDERS COMMUNITY PERPETUATE WEIGHT STIGMA?

Weight stigma and fat phobia remains very common in the clinical and research communities, and among people personally impacted by eating disorders. For example:

  • Clinicians do not feed patients, especially higher weight patients, at an adequate level.
  • Treatment programs do not accept patients whose weight may not be low.
  • Research is not balanced to include all body sizes because of the general assumptions made about weight and its association to certain diagnoses. For instance, a person in a higher weight body can have Anorexia Nervosa (termed" Atypical Anorexia Nervosa") and, because of weight, be excluded from studies.
  • Treatment programs advertise "weight management" or weight loss as a component of treatment for higher weight people with an eating disorder, especially those with binge eating disorder.
  • People at eating disorder advocacy events and in the broader eating disorders community verbally make fun of or harass people in higher weight bodies at eating disorders events (including NEDA events) (or in non-eating disorders related settings).

Weight Stigma Awareness Week kicks off next Monday, September 23rd! Get more information here.