weight bias and stigma

Weight Stigmas And Bias Are Everywhere!

August 22, 2022

Weight stigmas and bias are everywhere. I'm not sure anyone can change someone else's views, but we can talk openly about it; hoping that communication will provide a better understanding of what it feels like.

I’ve experienced being judged by others for my weight and then again for my first surgery. I know firsthand what negative effects this can have; however, I never let that deter or discourage me.

Living with obesity isn’t due to the lack of willpower, it is not a defect; it is much bigger than that. Obesity is a health condition just like any other health problem.

Weight Stigmas And Bias: Weight And Your Biology

Weight is determined by hereditary traits, environmental surroundings, hormones, as well as psychological and genetic components. An individual's weight also depends on the amount of energy the person burns via activity in comparison to what they ingest from calories. In my experience, most people who have prejudices and stigmas tend to think that weight is solely based on exercise and calories alone. This may lead you to think it's your fault, but it's actually your biology. Unfortunately, people react with stigma and bias, rather than empathy and help.

 All this can make you feel like you're alone and you can't get help, but you can. What I intend to do is to discuss how we can improve the situation individually tailored to your needs.

Issues surrounding stigmas in the obese population typically coincide with neglected health practices; not just limited to health professionals, but also seen with employers in the workplace, educational institutions, as well as many other group settings. Because of the stigma directed towards the obese population, people are often left feeling unheard and singled out. However, I am here to share what it feels like to get a better understanding of an individual's weight loss needs on a more intimate level.

The Feeling Of Hunger Never Stopped

Prior to surgery, I was always hungry. No diet, trainer, nutritionist, doctor or therapist could help my urge for food. The feeling of hunger never stopped. It started early in my childhood and never subsided. I was extremely active in sports when I was young and I always did my best with my nutrition, but it was never enough and my weight continued to be a struggle. Being labeled as “big boned” was often said, however, this diagnosis does not medically exist.

The shame and anxiety I felt was so intense that it held me captive for quite some time.

Later in life, I learned through my own research and testing many diagnoses that directly contributed to my own obesity. After undergoing many tests, it was finally revealed that my hormones, thyroid gland, insulin resistance, genetics, and psychology were a mess. There were so many things out of my control that I wasn't aware of. But soon I learned to take control and love myself.

During the process of having revision surgery, I decided not to tell anyone. This surgery wasn't the easy way out, but I made the decision based on my own genetic predisposition and health related to my weight. Obesity is associated with at least 60 health conditions, five of which I was already diagnosed with.

Obesity Is A Health Condition And Not A Character Flaw

Again, keep in mind that obesity is a health condition and not a character flaw. We as a society all need to adjust our ways of thinking in regards to this. A massive change like this has happened before in regards to mental health. Depression is now medically acknowledged as having an underlying health issue. It is now necessary and well overdue that the same conclusion be drawn in regards to obesity.

Cosmetic surgery is a coveted practice in that breast implants, nose jobs, face lifts, and butt implants improve an individual's quality of life. Why then is weight loss surgery not viewed the same? Why can't something that can dramatically improve the quality of one's life as well as help to completely eliminate other health conditions be treated equally without stigmatization?

If you're feeling weight stigmas and bias right now as a patient, I would like to tell you six steps you can do right now to start making changes:

  1. Become your own advocate and if you need help, contact a therapist and an obesity organization.
  2. Surround yourself with supportive people. If you need help finding support, talk to your doctor about local support groups or attend weight loss surgery (WLS) retreats.
  3. A therapist can help you with self-acceptance strategies, positive self-esteem, and moving forward one day at a time.
  4. Change your doctor if you feel they are not supportive and helpful.
  5. If your family doesn't support you, share this article with them from a different personal perspective.
  6. Love yourself, you're worth it!

I encourage you to take one step at a time. Take one day at a time. If you’re reading this and struggling with where to start, just start. Choose a recommendation that feels best for you. Therapy was the best thing that ever happened to me. A therapist helped me immensely and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Therapy is so helpful, it provides you with the critical thinking skills necessary to allow you to tackle another day in your efforts of moving towards your goals without allowing ​​stigmas to hold you back.

Carrie Brander, MBA, is the founder of Bariatric Body

carrie brander


Carrie Brander, MBA, is the founder of Bariatric Body which includes online courses from Bariatric Lifeline Academy. She is a patient, advocate and author who uses her experience to help others achieve transformational surgery results that last. She helped more than 4,000 patients overcome the struggles before and after surgery. For more information on her services, visit www.bariatricbody.co