Weight Bias, The Secondary Fight for People With Obesity

Martin Rhue

Weight Bias, The Secondary Struggle for People With Obesity


For my brochure I examined the health risks that obesity can have on a person’s body. I touched upon the fact that one of the reasons that the fight for a healthier lifestyle is so hard for some people is because of the way society in general portrays people that are struggling with obesity. Movies and television portray people with obesity either as lazy, stupid, or just overall imcompetant. So imagine if you are a person with obesity, you want help, but all society does is kick you and tell you that its your fault for the posistion you’re in. Even if those statements were true, and obesity was not the result of physiological disorders or psychological addictions, they wouldn’t be an encouragement for people with obesity to go out and seek help. This portrayal and the affect it has on society, even on medical professionals, is called ‘weight bias’.


Many people with obesity encounter health problems that have no relation to the obesity they struggle with. Unfortuantly, there are many health professionals that are unable to look past the patient’s weight and give an unbiased diagnosis. Many see the patient and come to the conclusion that anything wrong with them must be attributed to their weight, and many say the same thing ‘it’ll be fine once you lose weight, you just gotta lose weight’. Not only is this practice wrong, but it can be dangerous to patients.

Take this story from an unamed patient for example:

She was experiencing pain in her hip and found that it was hard for her to walk. X-rays and MRI’s showed nothing wrong so she was sent to an orthopedist. When the patient tried to explain her symptoms to the orthopedic, he would cut her off, saying that she needed to lose weight, and would not consider any other possibility. The patient was in tears by the end of the session because she felt so humiliated and the treatment she had been given. It took her several months to finally convince herself to see another doctor. This orthopedist actually took the time to examine her and found that she had developed scoliosis, a condidtion which causes one’s spine to bend, which was causing all of her hip pain.

Weight bias is not only disrepectful to people who are already suffering from obesity, but it is also dangerous to their health, both mentally and physically, and in their everyday lives. Such as:

At Work

  • Hiring Preferences
    • Obese People are seen as less ambitious
  • Promotions
    • People with obesity are less likely to receive a promotion
  • Termination
    • People with obesity are more likely to be fired due to prejudice

In School

  • Peer Bias
    • Children who are obese suffer a greater rate of victimization and bullying from their peers
  • Teacher Bias
    • Teachers report that they feel children with obesity are untidy, emotionl, and less likely to succeed

These factors can result in people with obesity developing depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and a mistrust of people.


Medical Professionals and everyday people in society can work toward eliminating their own weight bias’ by

  • Taking the time to take to people with obesity
  • Questioning societal viewpoints
  • And taking the time to learn about the problems that people with obesity face



Obesity Action Coalition » Understanding Obesity Stigma Brochure. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2017, from http://www.obesityaction.org/weight-bias-and-stigma/understanding-obesity-stigma-brochure


Obesity Action Coalition » Weight bias is harmful and dangerous. It’s time we put an end to it. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2017, from http://www.obesityaction.org/weight-bias-is-harmful-and-dangerous-its-time-we-put-an-end-to-it
Obesity, Bias, and Stigmatization. (n.d.). Retrieved May 14, 2017, from http://www.obesity.org/obesity/resources/facts-about-obesity/bias-stigmatization

T. (2015, May 20). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_XuwM844bY