We recently published a feature article titled, “Choose to Lose − and Win.” It was an article on simple things people can do to lose weight. Whenever we publish a feature article, we produce a brief white paper on the subject – here’s a link to the brief “Choose to Lose and Win.”
On this particular occasion, we received an objection from a credentialed public health official on why we might be “weight biased” in our approach.
In addition to her cover email, she attached a paper, Childhood Obesity: Issues of Weight Bias, by Reginald L. Washington, MD, which appeared in the September 2011 issue of “Preventing Chronic Disease, Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy,” and a Summary of CDC’s Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States.
The health professional believed we were saying that the obesity epidemic is solely the responsibility of the people who gain weight. She made these points:
- Many health professionals say it’s almost impossible in today’s society to eat healthy and not be overweight or obese.
- Billions of dollars spent on food marketing, and the inundation in society of junk food, has resulted in nearly 70% of the US population being overweight.
- Weight bias exists in the adult workplace.
- Weight bias is promoted by the media and even by parents.
- Weight bias may do as much, or more, harm to the overweight person as the extra pounds.
- As with smoking, we should tax and restrict the consumption of unhealthy foods.
It seems to be a case of the classic struggle of environment vs. self determination in what causes us to develop into the person we become.
I’ve got four take-away ideas for wellness managers and workplace communicators to consider when addressing the issue of weight loss.
Idea #1: Life is not fair. There’s a good chance nobody will make it fair anytime soon. Let’s focus on what is in our power to control, and understand we do have options to consider and choices to make every day. Often the challenges to losing weight seem exceedingly difficult. Our message is that you’re worth the effort, and the difficulty will be equal to the reward of better health.
Idea #2: The concept of self-responsibility should be communicated as a tactical approach, not used to launch into a philosophical lecture. Stay focused on the “how-to” of solving a health problem. Most people who are overweight are more than painfully aware of that fact, often because weight bias does occur.
Idea#3: There are a lot of community resources and infrastructure assets that are in place that can help advance population health, but remain underutilized. Let’s join forces in our communities and put those assets to work. Think about programs, partnerships, parks, and events.
Idea#4: Let’s move horizontally into our communities, and out of the vertical silos of our workplaces. Let’s engage our employees in community activities that include a diverse base of people, and come together as neighbors and friends to make where we live healthier, safer, and more fulfilling.
Although I did not agree that our article, or the reasons for it were weight biased, I do believe that living at optimal weight is a difficult challenge for the majority of people.
Other Hope Health sources on this topic:
- A 5 Point (Counter-Intuitive) Communication Philosophy to Hit the Issue of Obesity Head On — Right Now
- We’re Giving Dieting Too Much Weight—It’s Time to Lose the Drama…
Shawn is the President and Founder of Hope Health. For over 30 years, his work has focused on bringing clear, easy-to-read, and watch health messages to the public via workplaces. He bills himself as the “Best C+ Student in the Wellness Biz” because, as he says, “I like to challenge the notion that there is no such thing as a stupid question.” Shawn is on a mission to tie workplaces into their surrounding communities to share resources and ideas in an effort to improve the health of all Americans.
You may reach Shawn at sconnors@HopeHealth.com or 800-334-4094.