First, a little test.
What is the first thing you notice when you first met someone? Most likely you first notice the person's weight. And that is the first thing he or she mostly likely sees when meeting you.
Now I would like you to dig a little deeper. Do you have assumptions about people based upon their weight? Most of us do assume certain things about people solely based on their weight. All the stereotypes are right there in our heads. We assume people who are thin are healthy and fit, and we think that people who are overweight are unhealthy and not fit.
We have been trained since childhood by societal and cultural influences to think this way. But society is wrong, and we have accepted erroneous information based on nothing more than an arbitrary number. We can't tell if someone is fit or not solely based upon his or her weight.
We really don't know anything about a person based upon his or her weight. And often we can't see beyond that depending upon our own assumptions about people and weight. That is sad. We miss out on getting to know people because we have allowed our prejudices to dictate our actions.
Weight stigma goes both ways. I am not fond of a current movement that states, "Real women are not a size [X]." Why does someone get to decide who is a real woman based upon her size and weight? Aren't we all real women (and men)? We were all created different sizes and each one of us fall within a spectrum. That is the beauty of being human — each one of us is unique in shape and size, and we are perfect in God's eyes. We only start questioning our bodies and weight when society interferes and tries to force us to accept its values.
So what does weight stigma mean to me? It can be very dangerous because society continued crushing pressure on all of us to fit its very narrow definition of what is an acceptable weight. Some of us listen to society's voice and develop eating disorders during our quest to meet that narrow ideal. I am not necessarily saying that weight stigma and society's views about weight cause eating disorders. But it certainly doesn't help with either recovering from eating disorders or accepting our bodies.
I continue to move forward in recovery and am becoming healthier each day. Keeping my scale is one of the last vestiges of my eating disorder, and I still struggle with the numbers I see on it. I continue to work on eliminating weight stigma in my personal life, and I believe awareness is key to both recovery and eliminating weight stigma.
Because no one wins when it comes to weight stigma. The number is never right because none of us can meet the ridiculous standards set by society. Instead, we struggle and become frustrated until we reach a point where we can let go and simply be ourselves.
One last question. What if I had substituted the word race for weight stigma? Because that is what weight stigma is — one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice.
I'm still waiting for change. I hope it comes soon because weight stigma seems to be spreading during this country's obsessive fight against obesity. Perhaps some day we can focus on health and other things that are real and important about people.
This post was written as part of Voice in Recovery's Weight Stigma Blog Carnival. Visit Voice In Recovery's website for links to more posts written by a variety of bloggers on weight stigma and its impact on society and people.