The impact of weight on self-acceptance

Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1757-0980

Article publication date: 9 December 2014

Citation

Taylor, V. (2014), "The impact of weight on self-acceptance", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 7 No. 4. https://doi.org/10.1108/EIHSC-10-2014-0025

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited


The impact of weight on self-acceptance

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Volume 7, Issue 4

Women in western cultures are generally under more pressure to be thin than men, and they experience greater body dissatisfaction. Of the three currently recognized eating disorders, women are: one-and-a-half to two times more likely to experience Binge Eating Disorder; three times as likely to suffer from Anorexia Nervosa; and five times more likely to experience Bulimia Nervosa than their male counterparts. This pressure to be thin does not discriminate and is now an issue in most ethnic groups. It is also seen across the life span and the issue of eating disorders emerging before puberty or after menopause is becoming more common. The use of technology has further impacted the problem and a recent study examining the role of obesity in social media noted that these modes of communication were dominated by derogatory and misogynist sentiment, pointing to weight stigmatization (Chou et al., 2014).

It is important, however, that this type of “fat shaming” not further exaggerate the problem by constituting an additional obstacle that needs to be overcome prior to engaging in activates to improve health and quality of life, with or without weight loss. The papers in this issue focus on well-being, psychosocial health and body image, concepts that are often overlooked in the obesity literature. The greatest tool we have in the battle against obesity stigma is having a healthy sense of self. It is difficult for bullying to occur without a target and an individual that understands their own self-worth, and separates that from numbers on a scale is an effective tool against stigmatization. It is important, therefore, that we move beyond the concept of blame and understand that obesity is a consequence of a myriad of complicated factors. Treating obesity is equally complicated.

The goal of weight management is exactly that, management. It should be an attempt to allow individuals to be physically healthy in a way that is realistic. It can be extremely difficult, however, to disentangle feelings of self-worth from repeated failed attempts to lose weight and to separate a healthy body image from the messages that are still culturally endorsed with respect to attractiveness. The aim of this issue is to explore work on these themes as they apply to women at different life stages. Looking at health through the equity lens and reflecting on issues related to stigma and the broader context of self-acceptance will provide new ways to help ensure we address a complicated medical condition whilst still empowering the individual.

Valerie H. Taylor

Dr Valerie H. Taylor is a Chief Psychiatrist based at Department of Psychiatry, Women's College Hospital, Toronto, Canada.

Reference

Chou, W.Y., Prestin, A. and Kunath, S. (2014), “Obesity in social media: a mixed methods analysis”, Transl Behav Med., Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 314-23

Further reading

American Psychiatric Association (2013), American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), American Psychiatric Association, Washington, DC.