Ending obesity stigma 

A group of experts have produced a consensus statement on combatting obesity stigma, outlining common myths about obesity and issuing recommendations for policy, healthcare, media, and research. 

Referring to over 100 scientific and medical articles to discuss the science and medicine of obesity, the experts aim to move away from the association of blame against people who are overweight or obese. The misconceptions include: 

  • Body weight = calories in – calories out. Bodyweight depends on much more than eating and exercise (calories in and calories out) with many different factors affecting this equation, including metabolic rate (the amount of energy the body uses at rest), which varies from person to person. 
  • Obesity is primarily caused by voluntary overeating and a sedentary (inactive) lifestyle. Genetics, sleep deprivation, stress and medication also contribute to obesity. In addition, overeating and a lack of physical activity might be symptoms of obesity rather than root causes. 
  • Obesity is a lifestyle choice. Data shows that people with obesity recognise it as a serious health problem, not as a conscious choice. 
  • Obesity is a condition, not a disease. Labelling obesity as a disease, risk factor, or condition has implications for treatment and policy development and can contribute to promoting or mitigating stigmatising views toward affected individuals. 
  • Severe obesity is usually reversible by voluntarily eating less and exercising more. This is not supported by evidence. Bodyweight is not just regulated by voluntary food intake and physical exercise.

*including Francesco Rubino, Kings College London Department of Diabetes, David E. Cummings, Medicine Diabetes Institute, University of Washington and Rebecca M. Puhl, Rudd Centre for Food Policy & Obesity, University of Connecticut.

Read the full report HERE.

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