Weight Bias – The Voices that are Not Always Heard

As the beginning of my second term as chairman of the OAC quickly approaches, I cannot help but reflect on this past year and our successes. One of the main goals of the OAC and my personal passion is to change the public perception of the disease of obesity and those affected by it. Every day, new therapies for the treatment of obesity are being researched, developed, and perfected; however, weight bias remains. Weight bias is pervasive in healthcare, media, education, employment, entertainment, and daily life. We MUST continue our fight and strengthen the battle against weight bias until it is completely eliminated.

Weight bias is not something that’s always easy to identify or tackle. In fact, quite often, individuals affected by obesity are timid when it comes to combating weight bias. But, as the old saying goes, “There is strength in numbers,” and that is where you and your voice come into play.

Last year the OAC launched its “Bias Busters” campaign, with the main goal being quite simple: Recognize bias, address it and bust it. Period.  Behind the scenes this year, the OAC worked diligently to tackle numerous weight stigma issues by contacting healthcare professionals regarding their bias with patients; theme parks about weight-stigmatizing attractions; and reporters concerning their portrayal of obesity and individuals affected in the media. We continued to work with outside partners to ensure weight awareness campaigns remain sensitive to the individuals affected.

Throughout its existence, “Bias Busters” has tackled some impressive and important issues; however, many issues still remain:

We want to see an end to “fat suits” sold and chosen as a Halloween costume.
We want to see stock imagery companies appropriately depicting an individual affected by obesity so the media uses the right images when running a story on obesity.
We want to create a world where blatant hate-pages on Facebook targeting individuals affected by obesity are not tolerated and not even created in the first-place by the public.

In order to fully eradicate weight bias in all aspects of life, we must move from being reactive and become proactive – we must educate, educate, and educate. We must raise our voice every time someone makes a “fat” joke, we must correct those who make uneducated and uninformed assumptions about anyone affected by this lifelong chronic illness. In an effort to promote a more proactive approach to weight bias, the OAC published two new Weight Bias Guides that serve to raise awareness and to help all members of society better understand just how deeply weight bias impacts the lives of individuals affected by obesity and excess weight. I invite each and every one of you to utilize these guides as a resource and to share them with others.

I will leave you with one clear and important message: The simple reality of combating weight bias is that we have more to do. We can’t let up in our efforts. We can’t just say, “Well, we tried, but they still use those images.” We can’t say, “Geez, Facebook is such a big company. They’ll never hear us.” We are a 40,000 member-strong organization. That’s 40,000 voices all saying, “STOP. Enough is enough.”

If you’re affected by obesity and not yet a card-carrying member of the OAC, JOIN. Join us and let your voice be heard. One voice is often unheard. Forty thousand can speak loudly and clearly, but imagine the power behind100,000 voices! To join now, please click here.

You can also help us build our voice by forwarding this blog to at least one person you know who would benefit from joining the OAC. Let’s unite on our mission to make 100,000 voices heard by becoming a member.

And, if you are already a card-carrying member of the OAC, you can make an even bigger impact by donating to the cause – donate to the OAC! All donations are tax-deductible and even small contributions can go a long way in the fight. To make a donation now, please click here.

Join me as we tackle weight bias in 2013 – together we really do make a difference. Together we can make certain that Every voice WILL be heard.

Happy Holidays,
Pam Davis, OAC Chairman

To view the third blog post in this series, click here.

Weight Bias Resources:
To learn more about the “Bias Busters,” please click here.
To learn more about the Weight Bias Guides and resources, please click here.

4 Comments for this Post
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  • Maryanne Stanciu
    December 13, 2012 at 8:23 am

    In my opinion, the broad issue of weight bias pales in comparison to the narrow and more complex problem of dealing with individuals who are weight biased and have a direct impact on our lives. When your doctor is biased and fails to treat you appropriately, dismisses your complaints or puts up roadblocks to your health care then you have an immediate problem. That is my quest. How do I deal with the bigot AND get the health care I need? I can tell stories that seem incredible if you not familiar with this issue. Is there any best way, right way or effective way to handle these individuals?

    • Pam Davis
      December 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm

      Maryanne, first thank you so much for taking the time to read our blog and to respond. The example you provide is the very form of bias we are working so hard to eliminate. Often times obesity and weight bias are based on a lack of knowledge regarding the multi-factorial components that impact one’s weight. Too frequently, weight is viewed as a lack of will power or a failure of personal responsibility. The mission of the OAC is to elevate and empower those affected by obesity through education, advocacy and support. We have recently developed two weight bias guides, one specifically addressing bias among healthcare professionals. These guides are tools to increase awareness of weight bias and to provide education on the overall scope of obesity and the need for compassionate prevention and treatment.

      Additionally, we will be expanding the Your Weight Matters campaign in 2013. One very focused target of this expansion will be the education of healthcare providers and providing them with “tools they can use” to appropriately initiate weight related conversations with their patients.

      Thank you again for sharing your experiences. Together we will work to resolve this issue.
      Pam Davis, OAC Chairman

      • Maryanne Stanciu
        December 21, 2012 at 8:59 pm

        My problems with weight bias and healthcare providers feels hopeless. There are entirely too many of them and only one me. For example, an ENT said to me that he could not order the MRI he needed because I was too big for their machine. I said that they should be sized for people my size and then everyone could get their MRIs. He replied, “society should not be burdened with the cost of building huge MRI and CT machines for people who can’t limit themselves to 1600 calories a day.” How does a sick patient deal with that malarkey from their own doctor? We are likely fighting an unwinable battle against weight bias. Nevertheless, I keep fighting one pinhead at a time.

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