Help the OAC Fight Weight Bias

The Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) is asking for your help in attaining its 2017 commitment to create a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to educate the public about weight bias. There are those who think “this isn’t a big deal” or “I am not biased” and any number of things that makes it seem like weight bias is a non-issue and to that, I say “read on” and the need will become clear.

Try to go back to that first day of school. You’re around 5 years old and likely nervous about this new adventure. Who will you meet, what will it be like, how will you fit in – because when it comes right down to it, fitting in is probably close to the most important thing on the list. Now imagine you’re fat – the one thing to guarantee a “fitting in” problem and that was me. And to make matters worse, my last name was Katzman. As you might imagine, it took the “mean” kids about 12 seconds to rename me “FATzman.”

But the point here is not “poor little fat girl,” no, it is something far more disappointing and speaks to why it is so important to educate everyone about weight bias and shaming. The saddest part of this story is that not one teacher or administrator stopped this “teasing.” There were no repercussions to the kids who mercilessly tormented me. The message from the adults, who should have been more aware, was “it’s OK to do this – it’s basically good, clean fun.” And so, weight bias and shaming were perpetuated and condoned then, as they are now. We see this with bullying of school children and blatant rudeness to adults.

Moments such as mine are often defining to an individual’s future behaviors and struggles. Weight bias and shaming are often the foundation for a future laden with body image issues, ongoing battles with obesity, psychological and relationship problems all the way to an increase in suicide rates. Employment statistics show that those with obesity are less likely to be hired, earn less and are promoted less frequently. And those with obesity are less likely to attain college degrees or even finish high school.

The effects of weight bias are far-reaching and hardly benign. With your help, we hope to eradicate the misperceptions of those with obesity – lazy, slovenly, lacking in motivation and so much more – that are at the core of weight bias. Which brings me to this week – the last week of the year, a time for reflection and generosity of spirit and action.

The OAC is works fervently to educate and eradicate these problems. We spend countless hours and efforts fighting to represent and support those with obesity and educate those who are in need of a deeper understanding of the issues. This coming year our goal is to produce a PSA that will speak to the topic of weight bias in a humanistic and thoughtful manner. Its purpose is to build awareness, not finger point or assign blame. We believe, just as with other forms of prejudice and public humiliation, education provides a path to understanding resulting in behavior change.

Producing such an important piece of work takes talent, time and philanthropy. Your generosity as a donor does make a difference. Become a part of our initiative and make your voice against weight bias heard. Make our commitment part of your New Year’s commitment by joining in the giving effort.


About the Author:
Melinda J. Watman, BSN, MSN, CNM, MBA, spent years in clinical practice and recently founded “THE F WORD FAT tiny word, BIG impact,” a company that provides educational seminars to organizations on understanding, managing and eliminating weight bias and discrimination. She is a member of the OAC National Board of Directors and chair of the OAC Weight Bias Committee.

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