A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

“A picture is worth a thousand words.” This statement was originally said by Fred R. Barnard, and was actually stated as, “A picture is worth ten thousand words.” Although originally stated in reference to ads on the side of streetcars, it seems to be even more powerful when thinking of our current society’s image-driven world.

From social media to television, imagery drives all that we see – literally. When it comes to obesity, there is often a strong stigma associated with imagery. For instance, in many news stories focusing on obesity, the accompanying picture will be a headless person or someone eating food in a very animated way with the food falling all over them. My response to this – why? Do people with obesity not have heads? Do people with obesity not eat food in a way that everyone else does?

So, you may be asking yourself, “What about other conditions?” Well, that’s a great question. When other conditions like cancer, sleep apnea and heart disease are featured in news stories or on social media, they all feature empowering imagery, positive imagery, and most importantly, people with heads.

The OAC recognized that this was (and still is) a problem. What do these images say about people with obesity? These images further stigmatize people affected by obesity and they dehumanize them as well. Let’s be honest here, it’s pretty important that someone has a head! Throughout my existence at the OAC, I’ve often reached out to media representatives and asked, “Why don’t you use pictures of people with heads?” Their response, “Good imagery of people with obesity doesn’t exist” or “We do it to protect their identity.” Really? I mean, if that’s the justification here, then isn’t the identity of someone with cancer just as important? Yeah, I am not buying that one. The simple reality is that these images are used because this is how people with obesity are seen by the general public, pop culture, mass media, education, and unfortunately, even in healthcare.

Recognizing that there was a significant need for positive, empowering imagery of people with obesity, the OAC set a goal in September 2015 to create its very own image gallery. After almost a year of planning, scouting locations, model selection and more, the OAC unveiled its image gallery in the Summer of 2016. The OAC’s Image Gallery houses more than 400 bias-free images available for FREE for non-commercial and/or media use. To date, these images have been featured in the Washington Post, educational materials, healthcare provider materials, presentations and much more! The Gallery will also add 4,500 images in 2017 – making it the largest bias-free stock image gallery in existence.

What was once a dream project of the OAC’s quickly became a reality for us this year. With that said, this dream turned reality would not have been possible without the support of our community and people like you. And, while to date we’ve had hundreds of people visit the gallery and download images, we know that this is just one small step in the fight to end weight bias.

As we look ahead to 2017, we know that weight bias is alive and well. Weight bias is truly the first obstacle in anything we do or advocate for at the OAC. If someone cannot recognize their own bias, it’s very difficult to clearly understand why our efforts in obesity are so important for so many of us.

As your support and donations helped us create the OAC Image Gallery in 2016, we also need your support and donations for our next step forward this coming year to help end weight bias. I ask that you please take a moment and visit www.ObesityAction.org/EndWeightBias and support our end-of-the-year donation campaign by pledging your support of our efforts. Your donation will help us expand our weight bias efforts, such as increasing the reach of the OAC Image Gallery, adding more photos and much more. Only together can we continue this fight to end weight bias.


About the Author:
James Zervios, VP of Marketing and Communications, is one of the founding staff members of the OAC and has worked in the non profit patient advocacy sector for more than 12 years. James is responsible for overseeing all organizational marketing and communication initiatives. He works closely with the OAC’s Education and Weight Bias Committees on developing organizational educational materials. As OAC spokesman, James has participated in hundreds of media interviews with publications and broadcast networks ensuring that the OAC’s mission and vision are accurately represented at all times. James has also written extensively on the topic of obesity and weight bias and co-authored a textbook chapter for Harvard Medical School on the topic of “Obesity and Access to Care.” He is the senior editor of Your Weight Matters Magazine and guides the Marketing and Communications Department in various areas, such as the Your Weight Matters Campaign, Web site development and more. He is a graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications.

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