Learn why and how to end the stigma attached to obesity
14 October 2018| Last updated on 15 October 2018
11th of October marks the date of World Anti-Obesity Day.
The campaign was first launched in 2015, and it has been a great success since then, reaching millions of people worldwide, and spreading awareness about the consequences and prevention of obesity worldwide.
This year’s campaign theme is “stop weight stigma.” Today, Pacific Prime Dubai explores the issue of weight stigma, and why it is so important to talk about it, and fight against discriminating people based on their body mass.
What is weight stigma?
Weight stigma refers to negative behaviors and attitudes that are directed towards individuals solely because of their weight. Words, non-verbal communication, taunting, and media images can all have a negative impact and act as weight stigma. Obese people are stigmatized as lazy, gluttonous, unintelligent, unattractive, and lacking in social skills.
People with obesity already know that they are at higher risk of developing medical issues such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and musculoskeletal disorders, but not everyone realizes that a higher BMI is also connected to mental health disorders.
Obesity and mental health
The physical health costs of obesity are clear to the majority of people, but the relationship between obesity and mental health in the general population is less clear. Perhaps there is not enough awareness on the issue of eating disorders, but there should be, as eating disorders have the highest mortality rate amongst all mental health disorders, often due to suicide and depression connotations.
Other psychical implications such as distorted body image, anxiety, and low self-esteem are associated with obesity and weight discrimination, and in effect can contribute further to weight gain and failure in weight loss efforts.
Why fighting weight stigma matters
The UAE is doubling the world’s ranking in obesity rates with already more than 66 percent of men and 60 percent of women being either overweight or obese. Child obesity is also arguably one of the most heated topics in the Emirates as well. The medical complications that arise from obesity are a huge burden to the local health care system, as preventive care is less expensive than treating chronic conditions that arise from obesity.
Seeking medical care, however, can be a challenge for individuals who have been made to believe that they have caused their own disease, and telling people to simply eat less and exercise more in most cases does not solve the issue at all.
Weight discrimination prevents people from seeking medical help
People with obesity report being exposed to stigmatizing attitudes from healthcare professionals. Examples of stigma from medical professionals include receiving less clinician time, not being offered certain treatments or receiving inappropriate ones. Discriminating behaviors among healthcare professionals deter people from seeking help with their weight management, and finding treatments that are likely to improve their physical and mental health.
Making sure all affected people are encouraged to get help to manage their weight in a safe, stigma-free environment is crucial for the success of this year’s campaign.
Where does weight stigma happen?
World Obesity Day’s stigma map suggests that quite often fat-shaming occurs in our closest environment. Parents should encourage their children to eat healthily and ideally lead in that matter by example. They shouldn’t also shame their children based on their weight, especially in their teenage years, as teenagers are (more often girls than boys) more prone to developing eating disorders based on weight stigma.
Weight discrimination can also happen at work, school, or even the doctor’s office. Fear of being socially rejected, taunted, or not being treated equally by employees or even doctors leads to people avoiding medical help, which in return may result in the development of eating disorders, medical conditions, and further weight gain.
Negative stereotypes are promoted by media. Headless figures, individuals wearing ill-fitting clothing and engaging in stereotypical behaviour (e.g. consuming unhealthy food in front of a tv) are dehumanizing and create unfair generalizations about those with obesity. Because of that stereotypical portrayal, people with obesity might not feel comfortable exercising and eating healthy or being socially active, as these disciplines are perceived to be reserved for people with a healthy BMI.
When to see a doctor if your BMI is higher than normal
Our partner, Pacific Prime Dubai, suggests seeking preventive care first. When you notice changes in your body mass, or already have obesity, you should not be ashamed of the fact, but act fast. Losing weight is hard; that’s why consulting a dietician is crucial to getting back to a healthy weight. Checking your blood pressure and blood sugar levels systematically can help you to determine if any conditions have developed, and allow you to act quickly on this.
Staying up to date with doctors visits and maintaining a healthy weight is not only important from a health perspective, but also to control medical insurance costs.
Usually, all chronic conditions that are linked to obesity (such as diabetes or high blood pressure), are excluded from insurance coverage, as they are costly to the insurer. Since in Dubai, your health insurance must cover all of your medical conditions, your premiums can be significantly more expensive if the insurer must cover costs associated with all your chronic conditions.
If you have any questions related to health insurance in Dubai, whether for yourself, or your children, Pacific Prime Dubai can offer you helpful advice on coverage and network providers in Dubai. Contact the team at Pacific Prime Dubai today!