Weight Stigma Awareness Week: Changing Attitudes in a Weight Bias World

Changing Attitudes in a Weight Bias World

Amy Pizzente

Amy Pezzente works for the Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention Program and coordinates the Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW) campaign.
BEDA promotes cultural acceptance of, and respect for, the natural diversity of sizes, as well as promoting a goal of improved health, which may or may not include weight change.  The views expressed by our featured bloggers are their own.
I once equated thin with fitness, health and happiness. Was I ever wrong.
My journey through my own eating disorder showed how wrong this was, with such a distorted perception that being ‘thin’ was the only and ideal standard of living. It wasn’t until I had a ‘heavier’ fitness instructor who outran, outstretched, and outlifted me that I began to change my views. She showed me how wrong I was and I shifted my mindset.
But the majority of society isn’t at peace with their bodies, making ‘fat’ a problem and causing physically and mentally damaging side effects from repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, unhealthy weight loss behaviors, poor body image, eating disorders, stress, stigmatization, and discrimination. This bias exists even within our healthcare system. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Through my work as coordinator for the British Columbia Provincial Eating Disorders Awareness (PEDAW)* campaign, I have the opportunity to help shift the focus to health and well-being, and not weight. We give presentations to elementary and high schools about eating disorders, self-esteem, and body image and help students understand that the problem lies within cultural attitudes about weight, and not their bodies. It is important to get these messages about loving our bodies to children, youth and families so that they can question the messages that are out there without causing destruction to their own bodies. We would never want a child to feel unworthy because of the bias that is prevalent in our society.
I also work closely with BC Mental Health and Addiction Services who is developing an online and interactive resource to address weight stigma within the healthcare setting. The Weight Bias and Stigma resource will provide opportunities for healthcare professionals to reflect on their attitudes and beliefs about weight and shape, examine the evidence about weight, weight bias and health, and develop skills for working with patients who are living with weight issues.
I am confident we can reduce weight stigma; there is a lot of work happening and a lot of work to be done, but if we work together and spread the message that weight bias is not acceptable, things will start changing. It is my hope that society will start to believe that there is health at every size.

* The PEDAW campaign is a BC Province wide effort to raise awareness around prevention and early intervention of eating disorders as well as media literacy, resiliency, building healthy body image and self-esteem. PEDAW is launched the first full week in February with activities and events taking place throughout the year. The initiative is led by Jessie’s Legacy Eating Disorders Prevention Program at Family Services of the North Shore in collaboration with Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, Looking Glass Foundation, St. Paul’s Specialized Adult Eating Disorder Program, BC Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Program, and Healthy Minds, Healthy Campuses.

For more information, check out: www.facebook.com/loveourbodiesloveourselves                             Email: pedaw@yahoo.ca

The Weight Bias and Stigma resource is currently under development and will be pilot tested in Spring 2014. Please email kishmael@cw.bc.ca for more information.

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