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Unravelling weight stigma & understanding its societal impacts

Posted By Naina Varma  

With Weight Stigma Awareness Week coming to a close for 2023, Eat Love Live dietitian Naina Varma hopes to shed some light on this strongly weighted topic.

In a world that places a high value on physical appearance, weight stigma has become an unfortunate and prevalent issue. Weight stigma refers to the negative attitudes, stereotypes, and discriminatory behaviours directed towards individuals based on their body weight or size. 

This societal phenomenon not only affects individuals on a personal level, but also has far-reaching consequences on a broader scale. In this blog, we will delve into the complexities of weight stigma and explore its profound societal impacts.


The person toll of weight stigma

Mental and emotional wellbeing

Weight stigma can have devastating effects on an individual's mental health. Constant exposure to negative attitudes and comments can lead to anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and even eating disorders. The emotional toll can be just as damaging as the physical effects of weight-related health issues.

Physical health

Paradoxically, weight stigma can actually exacerbate health problems. The stress and anxiety it induces can lead to an increase in cortisol levels, which may contribute to various health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and compromised immune function.

Barriers to healthcare

Individuals facing weight stigma may be hesitant to seek medical care due to fear of judgment or mistreatment from healthcare providers. This reluctance can lead to delayed diagnoses, inadequate treatment and poorer health outcomes.


Social Ramifications

Stereotyping and discrimination

Weight stigma perpetuates harmful stereotypes about individuals with higher body weights. They are often unfairly assumed to be lazy, lacking in self-discipline or unintelligent. This leads to discriminatory practices in various aspects of life, including education, employment, and social interactions.

Educational settings

Weight stigma can be especially pronounced in educational environments. Students who are subjected to weight-based bullying or discrimination may experience lower academic performance, diminished self-esteem and higher rates of school dropout.

Employment disparities

Research indicates that overweight or obese individuals are often subject to workplace discrimination. They may be overlooked for promotions, paid less or even face termination solely based on their appearance. This not only affects the individual's economic stability but also perpetuates a cycle of inequality.

Media influence

The media plays a significant role in perpetuating weight stigma by portraying unrealistic and narrow beauty standards. This creates a pervasive cultural bias that further marginalizes individuals who do not conform to these ideals.


Combatting weight stigma

Education and awareness

Increasing awareness about the harmful effects of weight stigma is crucial. Education programs, workshops and campaigns can help challenge societal perceptions and promote empathy and understanding.

Promoting body positivity and neutrality

Encouraging body positivity and self-acceptance can counteract the damaging effects of weight stigma. Celebrating diverse body sizes and shapes helps to create a more inclusive and accepting society.

Advocacy for policy change

Advocating for policies that protect individuals from weight-based discrimination in areas such as healthcare, education, and employment is essential. This includes measures to ensure equal opportunities and rights for individuals of all body sizes.


Weight stigma is a pervasive issue with deep-seated societal impacts. It not only affects individuals on a personal level but also perpetuates inequality and discrimination on a broader scale. 

By fostering awareness, promoting body positivity and advocating for policy changes, we can work towards dismantling the harmful effects of weight stigma and creating a more inclusive, accepting society for everyone, regardless of their body size.

Here at Eat Love Live, we pride ourselves on supporting clients to embrace a size inclusive approach to their health and well-being. We hope to support people’s health for the long-term in a safe and nurturing space. 

If you would like more information and would like to work with a compassionate and warm dietitian, call our clinic on (03) 9087 8379.



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2.      Phelan, S. M., Burgess, D. J., Yeazel, M. W., Hellerstedt, W. L., Griffin, J. M., & van Ryn, M. (2015). Impact of weight bias and stigma on quality of care and outcomes for patients with obesity. Obesity Reviews, 16(4), 319-326.

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