Huron County, ON – “Stigma about how much someone weighs is harmful, and society needs to stop focusing on weight and focus on health instead,” says Amy MacDonald, the Public Health Dietitian with the Huron County Health Unit.
MacDonald wants to bring attention to this issue and decrease stigma around weight. Weight stigma and bias can negatively affect a person’s physical and mental health. MacDonald says research shows that stigma and internalized bias may actually be the cause of health risks typically associated with higher weights.
“We know there is actually little evidence that weight directly causes chronic disease,” says MacDonald. “Eating well, being active and practicing self-care, can lead to improved health, whether you lose weight or not. And that’s what we want people to focus on.”
“We want to help members of our community to not feel ashamed or critical of themselves or their bodies,” MacDonald continues. “Our body size is not the cause of all of our problems. We live in a world of size diversity. There is evidence we can improve physical and mental health by rejecting weight-focused health interventions.”
MacDonald says weight loss is generally not sustainable. Most people who lose weight will regain the weight, and possibly gain even more weight, within two to five years. MacDonald emphasizes that this is not a failure of the individual, but often a result of biological and other factors that are often beyond an individual’s control.
The Health Unit will continue to work towards reducing weight stigma. “Let’s reconsider our feelings towards weight, and contribute towards a more body positive culture for ourselves and the children in our lives,” says MacDonald.
For more information, read the Health and Wellbeing Philosophy: Approach to Weight position statement, created by the Ontario Dietitians in Public Health and available at www.odph.ca/advocacy . This statement was endorsed by the Huron County Board of Health this past August.