Weight discrimination. So often I hear stories of clients being discriminated on because of their weight. Feeling self conscious, like things are out of control, and that they are trying their best to be as healthy as they can be. When we think of people being discriminated against because of their weight, we often immediately think of people who struggle with carrying excess weight. And yes, this is definitely a problem. However it can often go the other way as well.
Some people seriously struggle with keeping weight ON. Be it due to having very high energy requirements, a difficulty getting enough energy in, or a number of other medical issues. My reason for writing this post is I have seen an increasing number of people - both clients, and friends, who tell me how much they hate it when people comment on their weight.
So, is it ever ok to comment on someone’s weight? Of course it is, as long as it is done with care, consideration and concern for the persons wellbeing. If someone you know has been trying to lose weight, and you notice their success, in most cases they will be happy that you noticed! Same the other way, if someone is trying to gain weight, and you notice. But if you do choose to comment, do it with care, and sincerity.
When is it inappropriate? It is funny the way society works. With so many people trying to lose weight, it has somehow become appropriate to tell people of lower weight to ‘go and eat a burger’, or ‘go and eat some cake’. Why is this so apparently culturally acceptable, when if someone turned around and said to an overweight person ‘you should not eat that burger’, would be deemed rude? I do not believe that this is acceptable at all, ever. Comments such as this are not constructive, and can be incredibly harmful to people who are likely already sensitive about their weight, and are working as hard as they can to remain healthy.
If you are genuinely concerned about a friend or family member’s weight (be it up or down), then broaching the issue with them privately (ie alone, or only with others who are also concerned), in a caring considerate way is ok. But choose your words carefully, and be prepared for the ways the person may react. If you are thinking of commenting for any other reason, hold your tongue and think before speaking.
Have you ever felt discriminated against because of your weight? Or maybe you have inadvertently made someone feel discriminated against? I’d love to hear from you!
Chloe McLeod is a dietitian at BJC Health.
This blog focuses on diet & nutrition generally and diet & nutrition in relation to the treatment of arthritis and arthritis-related diseases. Contact us if you’d like our help in managing diet-related health issues.