Obesity: Replacing Bias With Curiosity

Visualize a woman with obesity. Do you assume she eats all day and never gets off the couch? Picture a man with obesity. Do you think of him as lazy and unsuccessful? Are you secretly (or not so secretly) critical of those you love who have obesity? Do you yourself live with obesity, self-judgment, and shame?

When we see an obese woman eating cake, we judge her for making irresponsible choices and may even be disgusted by her behavior. When we see a slim man eating cake, we may admire or even envy him. “He’s so lucky—he can eat whatever he wants.”

The false belief that excess body fat is caused by eating too many calories and not getting enough exercise gives society a logical reason to blame obese individuals for their sorry plight. If obesity is due to gluttony and sloth, then those with obesity must lack the insight and/or self-discipline to control their weight.  If only they would simply eat less and exercise more, their bodies would return to normal. 

Yet there are plenty of clues that overweight people arefundamentally different—and always will be.

Psychology Today: Obesity: Stop Shaming, Start Understanding