Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weight Stigma's Effects on Body Dissatisfaction

In July, I discovered the Weight Stigma Blog Carnival and pledged to post three times over three months to do my part in raising awareness about weight stigma.

Maybe it's because I'd been working out ideas for my monthly post for the Weight Stigma Blog Carnival, or maybe it was that headlines about health, and dieting, and weight loss were seriously everywhere while I traveled from airport to airport to airport last Thursday, but suddenly I could not escape the effects of weight stigma.

My first post, cleverly titled “Weight Stigma Blog Carnival Part 1” introduced the carnival and addressed the question: “What does weight stigma mean to you?”

By definition, weight stigma is “bullying, teasing, negative body language, harsh comments, discrimination, or prejudice based upon a person’s body size” (voiceinrecovery.com).

During my layover in Memphis, I wandered around the hudson bookstore scanning book titles — a favorite airport pastime of mine. I was a bit disturbed by the prominent book display marked "Hudson Recommends." Book titles included:
  • The Skinny Rules: The 101 Secrets Every Skinny Girl Knows.
  • Lose 21 Pounds in 21 days: The Martha's Vineyard Diet Detox
  • Master Your Metabolism
  • Restaurant Calorie Counter for Dummies
So, four out of about 15 or 20 books displayed were targeted to women, boasting tips and tricks to losing weight or possibly, maintaining your weight (I didn't actually pick up calorie counter for dummies to see what it's purpose was, but the others were pretty blatantly about promoting weight loss).  

Intrigued by this revelation, I left the book section to see what the current magazines had to say about weight loss. Sure enough, I noticed 8 headlines about losing weight /fat across four popular health and fitness magazines.

In Fitness:
  • Flat Abs Now
  • Burn 33% more fat: Even whileyou sleep
  • Cheat, drink, and still shrink
In Health:
  • Melt 12 lbs in 28 days! Without hunger
  • Slimming Secrets
In Self:
  • The number one way to erase 8 pounds
In Shape:
  • How to drop 10 lbs in 30 days
  • 15 minute fat blaster
Mind you, as I read all these headlines with a vanilla latte in my hand and three bags full of cookies in my oversized purse (thank you gifts for my New York friends who let me crash with them), I couldn't help but wonder if I should be feeling badly about my most recent food and beverage choices.

Nearly every article about healthy eating says to watch mindless snacking, but realistically what else are you going to do when you're on a plane that's circling Philadelphia because New York air traffic is backed up and you have cookies in your purse? Are you going to ignore the cookies? ...Me either. 

Now, I don't have a perfect body, but I don't have a bad one either. I know I'm at a healthy weight for my height and I know I eat mostly healthy foods (sweet tooth aside), but finding myself surrounded by articles about how to shed weight and manage your diet still takes a toll on me. 

This is the power of weight stigma.

It can make you think there is a problem where there isn't one, leading to an unhealthy obsession and thus creating an all new problem.  

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