This week is the National Eating Disorders Association's (NEDA) second annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week—an initiative that shines a spotlight on weight discrimination and negativity and urges people to "end weight hate." Weight stigma is a significant risk factor for depression, low self-esteem, and overall body dissatisfaction, which can lead to eating disorders, according to NEDA.
NEDA has asked supporters to do their part in promoting body inclusivity and educating people about how weight stigma affects all facets of life—from doctor's office visits to interactions with friends and family to social media experiences. To help the campaign, five women on Instagram decided to use their platforms to discuss the realities of weight stigma and create a world without it.
Kate Wasley, an Australia-based model, writes notes in red lipstick on her mirrors as a reminder to her followers and herself that a person's worth should never be reduced to their weight, size, or how "perfect" their body is. "Stretch marks used to play a huge role in how I felt about myself. To me they were synonymous with being unhealthy," Wasley writes in an Instagram post. "As I’ve grown older I genuinely couldn’t care less about them…In most cases they are simply an indication of my body growing and changing, but the biggest area of growth for me is my perception of worth and beauty." In other posts she shares the science of cellulite and how nearly everyone gets it, as well as how waist measurements are simply a number.
Brianna Campos, a mental health counselor, shared a heart-wrenching story in an Instagram post about dealing with weight stigma as an 8-year-old. At the time, her doctor referred to her as "too fat," leading her to tears. "This doctor made an assumption of my health habits," Campos writes in the caption. "She never bothered to ask what I ate or what movement looked like. And shamed my body." Reminding her followers that weight doesn't correlate with health, she uses her experience to help others in similar situation.
Andrea Mathis, a body-positive dietitian, loves her job, but that doesn't mean she doesn't experience weight stigma—and definitely doesn't encourage it with her clients. She shared in an Instagram post that she has been shamed for her weight by a doctor she saw when she had pneumonia. She was also offered diet pills during a doctor's visit for birth control, and she was denied lab testing due to her weight. "These are all unfortunate circumstances & examples of weight stigma that myself and several other women have experienced, and it's time for a change!" Mathis writes in the caption. "ALL bodies deserve respect and compassion, regardless of size."
Adriana Javier, a personal trainer, openly documents her health journey on Instagram, including the weight stigma she's experienced from doctors and the love-your-body message she encourages in response. "Fat people are whole people. We can and do lead full and fulfilling lives," Javier writes in an Instagram post, where she stands proudly in just a sports bra. "We can do the same things as thin people, we can feel the same things as thin people; but we live in a world that does not accept that, that believes we are only worth our potential to be thin." Javier trains bodies of all sizes, reinforcing that health and strength shouldn't be tied to thinness.
On the flip side, nutritionist Brooke Miller, who has an "overweight" BMI, acknowledges that she still has "thin privilege" because she doesn't live in a larger body. "My doctors don’t tell me every visit that my issues would all go away if I lost weight. I can post a picture in a swimsuit with my kids without trolls telling me how 'fat' I am and how “inappropriate” it is for me to even put on a swimsuit. I can walk into any store and find something in my size," Miller says in an Instagram post. As a nutritionist, she advocates for bodies of all sizes, mentioning the diet double standards for larger people that would be considered disorder eating for a thinner person. "We can change society’s view on what health really means. But, it’s going to take time, education and work."
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