What is Weight Stigma?

At Welcome to Wellbeing, we strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment for individuals of all body sizes. Unfortunately, in our culture, negative attitudes towards people at higher body weights is normalised and not often questioned. This is a description of weight stigma- defined as stereotyping or social exclusion based on a person’s weight.

As a result of weight stigma, people at higher body weights often experience unjust treatment. This type of discrimination exists in more than one setting, with some of the most common settings outlined below.

Medical care

The experience of medical providers not providing adequate care to patients in larger bodies is well documented. Examples of this include practitioners spending less time with patients, withholding medical care, missing diagnoses and not performing thorough medical investigations, as a result of the patient’s weight. This can cause patients at higher body weights to avoid medical care all together, in order to avoid being stigmatised.


Many aspects of our built environment are not designed for larger people. This includes not having access to clothing in desirable styles and prices, or not having seating available for people to comfortably fit in. This is of particular concern in the context of flights or when taking other forms of public transport.


Negative stereotyping of those in larger bodies can lead to social discrimination. Weight-based bullying is, unfortunately, a common experience for children and adolescents. Furthermore, people in larger bodies are more likely to face harassment and even violence in their day-to-day lives.


Research has indicated that, like with other forms of discrimination, people at higher body weights are more likely to be disadvantaged in the workplace. This includes being paid lower wages, being less likely to get hired or given a promotion, or even facing termination or suspension on the basis of weight.

Although there is a common narrative that shame and blame will help to improve someone’s health by motivating them to increase their health behaviours, the opposite is actually true. Research indicates that individuals who experience weight stigma are at a higher risk of:

  • Depression

  • Body dissatisfaction

  • Low self-esteem

  • Developing binge eating disorder

  • Experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder

  • Stigma-induced stress

These risk factors reveal that independent of body weight, experiences of weight stigma alone can have serious and long-lasting physical and mental health implications. Many of the negative health outcomes so often linked to a person’s weight, can instead be attributed to the consequences of experiencing weight stigma itself. Shame and stigmatisation are not the solution to health and wellbeing improvement. Instead, we need a healthcare system, a workforce, a built environment, and ultimately, a society, that offers the same level of respect and care to people of all body sizes.

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