She came into my office with tears in her eyes. My new client told me about all of the distress she experienced based on how she felt about her weight and weight bias she’d experienced over the past 20 years. “All of that time, effort, money and suffering, and I’m still obese,” she lamented.
It pained me to see her struggling and we spent part of our next few visits discussing the discrimination she encountered based on her size. I’m angry at every person who treated her with disrespect. It’s time for a shift in how society views obesity. People aren’t obese because they’re lazy, unmotivated or don’t have will-power. These negative stereotypes are not only untrue, they’re damaging.It's time for a shift in how society views #obesity. Click To Tweet
I’m excited to partner with Novo Nordisk to bring this important issue forward. As always, I write about topics I’m passionate about, and all opinions are 100% my own.
What is weight bias?
The stigma around obesity is significant and negatively impacts social life, mental health and more. One in three Canadian adults live with obesity and face widespread weight bias and discrimination from strangers, educators, employers, health professionals, the media and even friends and family. As a result of this stigma, obese individuals have more difficulty securing employment and getting the education and the healthcare they need. This is unacceptable.
Sadly, my client’s experience is shockingly common. Dealing with weight bias often leads to feelings of guilt and shame, depression and unhealthy weight control practices such as extreme dieting. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight regain, creating a vicious cycle that’s destructive to a person’s physical and mental health. There is a better way.#Weightbias can lead to guilt and shame, depression and extreme dieting. There's a better way. Click To Tweet
Let’s look at 6 myths surrounding obesity and what we can do to combat them in our society.
Obesity is a choice.
According to the Canadian Obesity Network, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization, obesity is a chronic disease. That means obesity is in the same category as type 2 diabetes and heart disease and people living with it deserve care and attention rather than blame. No one chooses to be obese.
Obesity is caused by lack of will power.
I’ve done hundreds of news interviews about obesity and am asked about what causes it every time. My answer? Obesity is a multifactorial disease. In other words, obesity is caused by complex interactions between societal factors, environmental factors and more. A person’s genes can affect the risk of obesity, and so can medical problems, some medications, emotional health and sleep. We’re only beginning to unravel how gut hormones and the gut microbiota play a role in obesity.Think #obesity is caused by a lack of willpower? Here's what the research says: Click To Tweet
You have to lose lots of weight to be healthier.
This is a common trap that people fall into and we have the weight loss industry to thank. It has led many people to believe that extreme weight loss results are the only results that matter. Not true. Losing large amounts of weight may not be necessary for everyone who is overweight.
Stopping weight gain over time or losing as little as 5-10% of your weight and keeping it off can result in health benefits – especially when you compare these benefits with the harms caused by yo-yo dieting.
You’re not healthy unless you’re slim.
Pop quiz: who is healthier? A thin person who eats junk food and never exercises, or an obese person who eats plenty of vegetables and fruit and other nutritious foods and is active?
If you said the thin person, you’re wrong.
It is true that obesity is a risk factor for other chronic diseases. Getting to a healthy weight for you and maintaining that weight is key to lower disease risk and boost overall health.
But to achieve overall health and well-being, achieving a number on the scale or a pant size isn’t a great goal (and is an example of weight bias). Plus, it doesn’t consider the habits that got you there. Maybe you lost weight by cutting foods out of your diet that you really love. As soon as you add those foods back in, it’s common to go back to the weight you were at before (or gain even more weight).
Instead, focus on getting to your “best weight”. That’s the weight your body will stabilize at when you’re leading an active, healthy life you enjoy.
Eat what your skinny friend eats and you’ll look like that person.
If only it were that easy. Our genetics, age, height, frame size, sex, activity level and more affect our metabolisms and where we carry extra weight. You could do the exact same workout plan and eat exactly what someone else does and get completely different results. That’s why nutrition needs to be individualized to each person. Treat your body well and it will let you know what weight it wants to be at. It’s up to you to love it and listen.
If you want to lose weight, you should buy a (detox/low carb/personal training) program.
Don’t try to figure this out on your own or trust someone who isn’t a regulated health professional. Asking for support from your doctor is a good place to start. Your doctor can refer you to a registered dietitian for help with your nutrition plan.How to talk to a doctor about #weightloss (it isn't easy): Click To Tweet
What to ask your doctor if you want to lose weight
If you want to talk to your doctor about weight loss, here are some questions to help get you started:
- Do you believe that obesity is a chronic disease?
- Are you willing to work with me to help treat this like a complex chronic disease? If not, can you recommend someone who might be better suited to help me with this?
- What can I do beyond diet and exercise to help me achieve my best weight?
For more information on how you can manage your weight, talk to your doctor, or visit Obesity Canada.