Let’s end the cycle of shame and blame

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Experts have warned against calling overweight people fat or lazy because stigma is blocking the fight against the obesity epidemic as obesity becomes a growing problem in the UK and around the world with almost half of Britons and one in five people worldwide expected to be extremely overweight by 2045.

Stigma and discrimination toward obese people are pervasive and pose numerous consequences for their psychological and physical health as obese people tend to be blamed for their weight, with common perceptions that weight stigmatization is justifiable and may motivate individuals to adopt healthier behaviors.

A statement made by 100 health professionals worldwide said prejudice against overweight people can cause both physical and mental harm as the social exclusion faced by people with obesity is similar to that of diseases in the past such as the plague, HIV and cholera which were wrongly blamed on individuals.

The researchers are busting the myth that obesity is only caused by people’s food choices and behaviors because it also a result of genetics and environment with the study showing that around one in four adults and one in five children are obese in the UK.

However those who are bullied about their weight are more likely to be depressed, develop psychological and physical problems and ironically, are more likely to develop eating disorders as well. This suggests that societal expectations of body norms have real, pathological effects.

According to professor Rubino from King’s College London, Weight stigma is a public health problem undermining human and social rights and is a major stumbling block in the fight against the epidemic of obesity and they are aiming to expose the misconceptions that contribute to weight bias.

Obese people are even the subject of stigma in the public health sphere, the media, in the workplace and in the education system hence they are calling on academic institutions and professional bodies to incorporate formal teaching on the causes, mechanisms and treatments of obesity.

Weight stigma occurs in almost every aspect of our society including the health care setting, It is critical that efforts to address this problem include support and action from the medical community hence obesity can be caused by factors largely outside our control such as the increased availability of cheap processed food, sedentary lifestyles encouraged by the reduction in schools sports fields and increased stress, which may lead some people to overeat.

Obesity on the other hand can lead to a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions including type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, some types of cancer such as breast cancer and bowel cancer and also stroke. Therefore let us not point fingers but rather help and give support.

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