The stigma about obesity can remain even after a person is successful at weight loss. I myself found that I still believed some of the “fat stereotypes” after my bariatric surgery and weight loss! I needed to shift my perception in order to come to terms with the obesity baggage that I carried for years. Read, “Finding Self Acceptance after Weight Loss.”
There was a time when I always felt embarrassed.
I was sure people were judging me. Everyone must have a negative opinion of me because of my obese appearance. Many of the rude and hurtful comments across years had taken root and I believed the stereotypes about obesity, and about myself.
I felt I was being judged when I ate. People were assessing the size of the portion that was in front of me or drawing conclusions about my character. They thought I had no willpower, was lazy, and did not care. I was ashamed that I had to have a major surgery in order to control my eating.
I thought my perceptions were owing to my poor self-esteem and sense of self. As it turned out, some of the weight bias I sensed was accurate.
Negative Perceptions and Obesity Stigma
Many people believe that obesity is the result of poor self-control, non-compliance with recommendations, or mental health issues.
The stigma about obesity is even greater if people believe that obesity is a result of conditions that could have been controlled. An uncontrollable thyroid condition needs to be understood exactly for what it is, as do other causes of obesity that are not under anyone’s control.
Weight Bias in the Workplace
Weight bias against obese people in the workplace exists in hiring practices, promotions, wages, and terminations. Read, “Shame on Weight Discrimination at Work.”
Data show obese people are less likely to be hired than normal weight applicants despite equal qualifications. And obese people are less likely to get promoted than non-obese people. Plus, obese women earn up to 12% less than normal weight women. Finally, obese people are often fired because of employer prejudices about their obese weight.
Stigma about Obesity by Healthcare Professionals
Many healthcare professionals have stereotypes about obese people. HCPs may believe that obese people are lazy, non-compliant, and undisciplined.
A study that included over 600 physicians found that more than half believed their obese patients were awkward, unattractive, and non-compliant. Read, “Doctors Won’t Suggest Bariatric Surgery.”
Ending Obesity Stigmatization
The stigmas about obesity and the stigmas about weight loss surgery are similar. Many people just do not understand.
They remain judgmental and harsh of obese people, as well as of people who’ve had surgery to lose that weight. When people pass rude comments, learning to cope in a healthy way is the best choice. Read, “Coping Skills after Weight Loss Surgery.”
The ideal solution would be a public that is educated about the realities and stigmas about obesity. Laws against discrimination of obese people would be another leap forward.
Until then, there are support groups among the weight loss community that are useful and supportive. Read, “How to Build Your Bariatric Support Network.”
Overcoming My Obesity Stigma
I had gastric bypass way back in 2003. Although it had been many years since I’d been obese, I carried those stigmas about obesity with me for a very long time. It was not until I had plastic surgery in 2013 that I “came out” publicly about my bariatric surgery. Of course I knew that my body and my face would change from the plastic surgery. But I did not expect that my perception of myself would change. Finally, I let go the obesity baggage that I had been carrying for so many decades. I no longer felt embarrassed about who I am.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life
Photo: A nurse in a bariatric surgery unit tries on a fat suit to simulate the experience.