Have you ever avoided going to the doctor, afraid you’d be judged because of your weight? If so, odds are you were NOT just being overly sensitive or imagining that you might be treated with some disdain. Studies show physicians and family members are the most frequent sources of weight bias. Employers are also responsible for their fair share of weight bias. (Source, Rebecca M. Puhl and Kelly D. Brownell, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.)
I serve as the Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association, and I’m proud to announce BEDA’s first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, to be held September 26-30, 2011. Our goal is to bring more attention to the harm caused by weight stigma and bias, bullying, and the internalization of the message that being fat says something negative about a person’s value, worth, personality, and/or health.
We need your help! We need your voice, your stories. When and where has weight stigma affected you? If willing to be heard, you can make a difference. Either anonymously or with your name included, please share your experience with weight stigma. Through heartfelt and true stories, BEDA will share with the world how painful weight bias, stigma, bullying, and discrimination around body size can be.
Stories should be 300 words or less and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org (please cc: email@example.com). When you submit your stories, please indicate whether you’d like to have your story on BEDA’s website along with your full name, initials only, or anonymously.
Thank you! You can help us change the world!
Here’s the story I’m going to share…
I just wanted to feel safe…and loved. I longed to find someplace safe from bullying. I wanted to stop expecting the next comment to be about what foods I should or should not be eating. I didn’t want to be accused daily, “Did you eat ice cream at snack time today?” I wanted to climb under the exam table when our pediatrician, at my mother’s unrelenting insistence, acquiesced and prescribed Dexedrine, speed, for a totally healthy, albeit chubby, 8 year old girl.
Home should have been a safe place…
I was a little kid, always on guard in my own home with my own family, made to feel uncomfortable in my own skin…just waiting. The message was loud and clear. I was smart, sweet, well behaved. I had a “very pretty face”, blond curls, bright blue eyes. But, “what a shame.” I was too fat. Loud and clear and heart breaking; I was not acceptable, as I was.
This message, this weight stigma, was ever-present. It came from my Mom, who had her own body issues, and from an unhappy older brother who clearly saw me as an interloper in his world. He seemed compelled to carry his anger and his bullying into our school. He’d yell, “Hi Tubs”, whenever our classes passed in the hallways, as if to distance himself from this shamefully fat little girl to whom he was unfortunately related. By junior and senior high school he’d gotten all of his friends, in school, at home, even at a summer camp where I was a counselor, to call me ”Ray”, after Ray Nitschke, a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers.
The message was also delivered by my mother’s mother, who regularly baked cakes and cookies to express her love for her family, then, sternly stated, in front of everyone, that I was only to eat “one cupcake”. My grandfather was equally direct. Over and over again, publically, he offered to pay me one dollar for every pound I could lose.
For me, weight stigma started at home. I never felt safe. It’s no wonder I was vulnerable to developing a binge eating disorder?
Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”, firstname.lastname@example.org