At a time when global health officials are stepping up efforts to treat obesity as a worrisome public health threat, some researchers are warning of a troubling side effect: growing stigma against fat people, as noted in this New York Times article.
“Of all the things we could be exporting to help people around the world, really negative body image and low self-esteem are not what we hope is going out with public health messaging,” said Alexandra Brewis, executive director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University.
Dr. Brewis and her colleagues recently completed a multi-country study intended to give a snapshot of the international zeitgeist about weight and body image. The findings were troubling, suggesting that negative perceptions about people who are overweight may soon become the cultural norm in some countries, including places where plumper, larger bodies traditionally have been viewed as attractive, according to a new report in the journal Current Anthropology.
“The fundamental message we’re putting into the world is that fat people deserve shame for their own health,” said Ms. Kirby, co-author of the book Lessons From the Fat-o-Sphere. “We’ve been pushing this message for a long time. I don’t think anyone is immune to it.”
“I think the next big question is whether it’s going to create a lot of new suffering where suffering didn’t exist before,” Dr. Brewis said. “I think it’s important that we think about designing health messages around obesity that don’t exacerbate the problem.” Read more…