Last year (2019), the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) continued the legacy of Weight Stigma Awareness Week (WSAW) as part of the recent merger with the Binge Eating Disorders Association (BEDA). Initially spearheaded by BEDA in 2011, the goal of WSAW is to bring awareness to how weight stigma and weight discriminiation affects people of all sizes, how it contributes to or exacerbates eating disorders in people of all sizes, and how we can all work together with a unified voice to eliminate stigma and discrimination based on body size.
While weight stigma and discrimination are deeply rooted in our culture, and the eating disorders field at large, it is a relatively new concept for many folks in the NEDA community. Last year, for NEDA’s first WSAW, we focused our efforts on educating the broader (eating disorders) community about why weight stigma should matter to everyone, not only those in higher weight bodies. We addressed some common questions and misconceptions in our Weight Stigma FAQs, and called on experts like Deb Burgard, PhD, FAED, to write blog posts explaining What’s All the Fuss About Weight Stigma?
Throughout NEDA’s inaugural Weight Stigma Awareness Week, we heard from various experts, advocates, and NEDA Ambassadors. As a founder of WSAW, Wendy Oliver-Pyatt, MD, FAED, F.IAEDP, talked about why Weight Stigma Awareness Week is an important initiative for the eating disorders community, and NEDA Ambassador, Ragen Chastain, broke down how weight stigma is the root of eating disorders.
One of the key messages NEDA wanted to convey during our initial WSAW is that weight stigma and weight discrimination affects people of all sizes and demographics. We heard from NEDA Ambassador, Gina Susanna (@nourishandeat on Instagram), about the privilege and responsibility she and other folks in smaller bodies have as thin allies. Harriet Brown wrote about weight stigma from a mother’s perspective, reflecting on the impact fatphobia had not only in her life, but in the development of her daughter’s anorexia.
It goes without saying that weight stigma, like eating disorders, is not just a “woman’s issue.” NEDA Ambassador Ryan Sheldon penned a personal account of how weight stigma shows up for [him] as a “6’4, broad shoulders, higher-weight” LGBTQ male. In addition to Sheldon’s personal account, Aaron Flores, RDN wrote a blog post about male body image and weight stigma from the perspective of an eating disorders professional.
The WSAW 2019 blog series wrapped up with an exploration of some of the places where weight stigma is particularly prevalent. Dr. Lesley Williams talked about the reality of weight stigma in healthcare settings and Jessica Richman, founder and CEO of The Visible Collective, discussed the occurrence of weight stigma in the workplace and beyond. NEDA is grateful to all of the folks who contributed to our WSAW 2019 blog series, and we look forward to taking a deeper dive into weight stigma and discrimination – past and present – in this year’s End Weight Hate WSAW 2020 campaign taking place September 28 – October 2, 2020.