It’s time to end the stigma when it comes to obesity

In impulsive overeating by Yuliya Richard

So many of us are guilty of it….judging people by how they look, what they wear, who they associate with.

Quite often we get the stereotypes from what we see in the media. In a world where imagery has become an economy in itself, and a money earner for many through instagram, how we look seems to be so important today.

But 2 out of every 3 Australians are either overweight or are tipping the scales and considered to be obese.

This leads us to using language such as an ‘overweight person’ or ‘obese person’ where their whole identity is attached to their weight.

We get so many of our messages through social media, so this year for #WorldObesityDay the media are being encouraged to #endthestigma.

Media outlets should consider throwing out derogatory labels when talking about people with obesity. Journalists and social media influencers are being encouraged to use people-first language, replacing the term ‘obese people’ with ‘people with obesity’ for example.

By ending the stigma, we can treat everyone with the same respect, kindness and understanding we all deserve, irrelevant of our weight.

Only 3% of people with binge eating disorders are getting medical treatment to deal with it. If we take away any embarrassment, shame and guilt associated with being overweight, we can start to treat the problem.

As a Clinical Psychologist, I applaud the message we are sending to our media this #WorldObesityDay. Some of the guidelines include;

– use first people language

– using positive images which accurately support their stories without exacerbating misconceptions about people with obesity

– Ensuring pictures of people with obesity should include their whole body, rather than specific body parts with the head removed

– Avoid the use of language that is derogatory or pejorative

I advocate for self-compassion and kindness of our thinking patterns and feelings, as a first step to controlling binge eating. People should love and embrace who they are, and then begin the process of addressing the impulsive thoughts around food.

No one should be defined by his or her weight. It is about time body shaming is eradicated from our dialogue.

Using a combination of mindfulness and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), I have developed an evidence-based online program to help people learn about impulsivity and why it is they may feel out of control when it comes to thoughts about food.

Fad diets and motivation to hit the gym might work in the short-term, but often doesn’t last. However, up to 80% of patients who receive CBT stop binge eating in the long-term (1+ years).

If you are a journalist or social media influencer, on 11 October 2018, I encourage you to think twice about the language you use to talk about people who are overweight or medically obese. If you are a loved one or friend of someone struggling with overeating or impulsivity when it comes to food, join the conversation on social media to #endthestigma.

The ‘Beat the Binge’ online course, for people who are ready to confront their thinking patterns, can be accessed at https://impulsivity.com.au/curriculum/beat-the-binge-control-your-impulsive-binge-eating/