World Obesity Guest Blog: What can we do to #EndWeightStigma?

by Beth Bradshaw | 11 October, 2018 1:00 pm

Marita Hennessy is a Health Research Board-funded SPHeRE PhD Scholar within the Health Behaviour Change Research Group at NUI Galway. For her doctoral studies, she is focusing on early life obesity prevention, and specifically how interventions delivered during the first 1,000 days can be optimised and integrated into routine care.  Her research interests include obesity, weight stigma, food poverty, men’s health, health behaviour change interventions, knowledge translation and implementation science.


Each year on 11 October, World Obesity Day[1] is marked to stimulate and support solutions to help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. There is a different focus each year, and this year the focus is on weight stigma[2]. Why you might ask?

Not a day goes by, but we see or hear stigmatising portrayals of people with obesity in the media (1[3]). Negative, prejudicial attitudes toward people with obesity are widely held and socially acceptable (2[4]). Research estimates that almost 1 in 5 people with a BMI of 30-35kg/m2 experience weight stigma, and this rises to over 2 in 5 for people with a BMI >35kg/m2 (3[5]). Such stigma, and in some cases discrimination, is experienced in many aspects of daily life, including employment, education, and health care (4[6]), as well as in interpersonal relationships and the media (5[7]). There are many negative health consequences of weight stigma including medication non‐adherence, mental health, anxiety, perceived stress, antisocial behaviour, and substance use (6[8]), as well as weight-related health correlates and behaviours such as maladaptive eating behaviours (binge eating and increased food consumption), physical activity, weight status (weight gain and loss, and development of obesity), and physiological stress responses (7[9]). While many perceive that stigmatization of people with obesity might be an effective way of reducing obesity levels, this is not the case: stigmatisation of individuals with obesity threatens health, generates health disparities, and hinders obesity intervention efforts (2[4]).

Countering weight stigma and weight bias is something that I, and many others, are very passionate about. For example, earlier this year, the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology published a call to the media around weight stigma and discrimination[10]. A group of colleagues and I also recently issued an open letter[11] in response to stigmatising media portrayals of obesity. We all need to advocate and act to end weight stigma. This includes researchers, the media, health professionals, government, members of the public and patients.


What can we do?


For updates follow:

World Obesity Day Hashtags #WorldObesityDay[18] #EndWeightStigma[19] @EndWeightStigma[20] @WorldObesity[21]

Marita Hennessy @MaritaHennessy[22]


  1. World Obesity Day:
  2. this year the focus is on weight stigma:
  3. 1:
  4. 2:
  5. 3:
  6. 4:
  7. 5:
  8. 6:
  9. 7:
  10. call to the media around weight stigma and discrimination:
  11. open letter:
  12. World Obesity Image Bank:
  13. Rudd Center Media Gallery:
  14. Obesity Canada Image Bank:
  15. Obesity Action Coalition Image Gallery:
  16. people-first language:
  17. trying to highlight this:
  18. #WorldObesityDay:
  19. #EndWeightStigma:
  20. @EndWeightStigma:
  21. @WorldObesity:
  22. @MaritaHennessy:

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