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Addressing the stigma of obesity

Overweight and people with obesity are often targets of bias and stigma, which may affect their daily lives by exposing them to negative attitudes in multiple domains of living. Stigmatisation of people living with obesity threatens health, generates health inequalities, and interferes with effective obesity intervention efforts. Obesity is often perceived among patients and society as a lifestyle choice, which in turn may discourage many patients from seeking medical advice.

Communication is the first key step towards addressing the stigma. Health professionals can make a real difference in helping to reduce weight stigma guide patients towards achieving weight loss goals. It is important for clinicians to become aware of their own biases and develop empathy towards patients living with obesity and address concerns of obese patients. There are training courses available for health professionals that may aid in achieving this and help to develop critical knowledge of obesity as a disease.

Healthcare providers should be aware that many patients have tried to lose weight repeatedly; therefore it is critical to acknowledge the difficulty of lifestyle changes and help patients recognise that even small weight losses can have significant health gains.

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Addressing Obesity Together