Weight Stigma, Thin Privilege, Fat Phobia, IE, HAES, Healthism

What do all of these terms have in common? They are often unknown, misunderstood, or misrepresented. So, let’s define these key terms:

weight stigma: aka weight bias or weight-based discrimination, is discrimination or stereotyping based on a person’s weight or body size. Weight stigma can increase body dissatisfaction, a leading risk factor in the development of eating disorders. (Source: NEDA)

Research suggests that internalized weight stigma (when individuals accept weight-based stereotypes to be true about themselves) has the greatest impact on physical and mental health. (Source: Carrie Dennett, RDN for Today’s Dietitian Magazine)

thin privilege: the advantage afforded to those in thin bodies because they meet society’s standards of body preference. People with thin privilege can fit into spaces more easily, can shop for clothes in regular stores, and are less likely to experience weight-based discrimination. The term “thin privilege” is not meant to discount a thin person’s potentially negative body and eating experiences. Poor body image can occur in anyone. Thin privilege is meant to recognize that a thin individual doesn’t know how it feels to navigate the world in a larger body. 

fat phobia: a fear and/or hatred of fat bodies. May lead to externalized or internalized weight stigma. Click here for a Fat Phobia Assessment.

intuitive eating: A mind-body connection that informs eating. This concept was introduced in the 90’s by 2 dietitians. It includes 10 principles and is more involved than just eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. IE also rejects the diet mentality, accepts all foods and all body types, and aims to help people cultivate interoceptive awareness (essentially, understanding messages from your body, such as hunger). There are over 90 research studies highlighting the benefits.

health at every size: Briefly, HAES is the evidence-based notion that body weight or size is not a determinant of health. HAES supports people of all sizes in addressing health directly by adopting healthy behaviors. It is an inclusive movement, recognizing that our social characteristics, such as our size, race, national origin, sexuality, gender, disability status, and other attributes, are assets, and acknowledges and challenges the structural and systemic forces that impinge on living well. (Source: Linda Bacon, PhD)

HAES includes 5 principles:

  1. Weight Inclusivity: Accept and respect the inherent diversity of body shapes and sizes and reject the idealizing or pathologizing of specific weights. 

  2. Health Enhancement: Support health policies that improve and equalize access to information and services, and personal practices that improve human well-being, including attention to individual physical, economic, social, spiritual, emotional, and other needs. 

  3. Respectful Care: Acknowledge our biases, and work to end weight discrimination, weight stigma, and weight bias. Provide information and services from an understanding that socio-economic status, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and other identities impact weight stigma, and support environments that address these inequities.

  4. Eating for Well-being: Promote flexible, individualized eating based on hunger, satiety, nutritional needs, and pleasure, rather than any externally regulated eating plan focused on weight control.

  5. Life-Enhancing Movement: Support physical activities that allow people of all sizes, abilities, and interests to engage in enjoyable movement, to the degree that they choose.

Visit haescommunity.com and sizediversityandhealth.org for more information and resources.

healthism: Healthism judges people’s human worth according to their health. It is a belief system that sees health as the property and responsibility of an individual and ranks the personal pursuit of health above everything else.

It ignores the impact of poverty, oppression, war, violence, luck, historical atrocities, abuse and the environment from traffic, pollution to clean water and nuclear contamination and so on. It protects the status quo, leads to victim blaming and privilege, increases health inequities and fosters internalized oppression. (Source: Lucy Aphramor)

How do you relate to these key terms?