Weight stigma refers to the discriminatory acts and stigmatizing beliefs directed towards those perceived to carry excess weight. Although we are all impacted by weight stigma, some are impacted more or less depending on their body size and position in society. 

Weight stigma shows up in many areas of life. You may notice the impacts of weight stigma in: 

  • Healthcare
  • Relationships with family and friends
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Fitness and gym culture
  • Public transportation
  • Television
  • Social media
  • Housing
  • Retail

What is BMI?

Body mass Index (BMI) is a standard assessment tool designed to categorize a person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese. BMI estimates body fat based on an individual’s weight and height. However, BMI faces significant criticism, because it doesn't account for muscle mass, fat distribution, age, or gender. Additionally, BMI’s effectiveness for people of color has been debated, because it was developed based on a sample of white, European men. 

Learn more

How to Combat Weight Stigma on a Personal Level

Combatting weight stigma requires a collective effort. Here are actions you can take within your life to make a difference.

Bodies that are perceived to be larger:

  • Let your healthcare provider know of any weight bias you may have experienced in the healthcare setting. 
  • Have conversations with others in your life about weight stigma and its harmful effects. 
  • Build community and seek out safe spaces where larger folks can be seen and feel acknowledged. 

Bodies that are perceived to be smaller: 

  • Speak up if you see someone displaying weight bias and using harmful language. 
  • Have conversations with others in your life about weight stigma and its harmful effects. 
  • Refrain from giving unsolicited diet or fitness advice.
  • Engage in media that portrays larger bodies in a non-stereotypical light 
  • Be an ally to your friends with different body sizes than your own and create safe fatphobia free spaces. This may include using non-polarizing language about bodies and food.

How to Combat Weight Stigma on a Societal Level

  • Diversify your exposure to various body types on television and social media.
  • Advocate for size-inclusive seating and spaces in classroom and healthcare spaces.
  • Include larger bodies on marketing and communication materials. 
  • Shop at size-inclusive clothing stores.
  • Petition for weight-inclusive training and care for healthcare professionals.
  • Write to your legislature about protecting bodies by law in ways that other identities are protected.