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Sizeism/Weightism: How to Cope With it, and How it Affects Mental Health

By Rheyanne Weaver HERWriter

“[Here is] one from today: ‘Insulting, ridiculing, humiliating, debasing, and utterly destroying fat people like you mentally and spiritually is the only way to get you to be physically revolted enough by yourselves to commit suicide, because you should die, but murdering you is illegal and you’re not worth the jail time.’”

<< Coping with weightism >>

Chastain has the following tips for handling discrimination and experiencing negative treatment due solely to being a certain weight:

1) “The first thing that people of size have to do is realize that we are worthy of being treated well. In a society that inaccurately conflates body size with a host of negative stereotypes, and where we get over 370,000 negative messages about our bodies a year, that can be more difficult than anything else.”

2) “Set boundaries with consequences we can actually follow through with (i.e., my weight is my business, as is my health, and I’m not looking for outside opinions. If there are any more comments about my weight then we can’t be friends).”

3) “Educate. Open a dialog about the misconceptions about people our size and why they are neither accurate nor appreciated.”

4) “Remove ourselves from the situation.”

5) “Respond with yelling, with sarcasm etc. to feel better, regardless of how it affects the relationship.”

<< Sizeism and mental health >>

Jessica Setnick, the national director of training and education for Ranch 2300 Collegiate Eating Disorders Treatment Program and author of “The American Dietetic Association Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders,” said in an email that sizeism can go so far as to affect who gets treatment for mental disorders, specifically eating disorders.

“Our society seems to associate only those who are emaciated with eating disorders,” Setnick said. “There are some who are starting to see obesity as a potential clue to an eating disorder. But many, many individuals with eating disorders appear to be a ‘normal’ size. This leads to inaction by doctors and insurance companies who use weight as a sign that all is well. Many individuals do not get treatment for their eating disorder because of this discrimination.”

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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