BEDA Launches First Annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week

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The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) announced today that it will launch its first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 26-30, 2011.

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“Whether it is children being teased and bullied in school because of their weight, adults being discriminated against in the work place, or patients being shamed in a physician’s office, weight stigma insidiously affects a variety of people.”

The Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) announced today that it will launch its first annual National Weight Stigma Awareness Week, September 26-30, 2011. The objectives of this event are to build awareness of what weight stigma is, the harmful effects weight stigma can have on people of all ages in all environments, and what can be done to stop it.

“Whether it is children being teased and bullied in school because of their weight, adults being discriminated against in the work place, or patients being shamed in a physician’s office, weight stigma insidiously affects a variety of people.” says Chevese Turner, CEO of the Binge Eating Disorder Association. “We want to raise awareness around weight stigma and how a focus on weight rather than health and placing a higher value on “thin” can, in fact, have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of a person-of-size—especially those who have or are predisposed to eating disorders.”

As the “war on obesity” rages on and the $60 billion weight loss industry continues to grow, paradoxically, rates of obesity are not decreasing and eating disorders are rapidly increasing. Afflicting more women than breast cancer, eating disorders have the highest rate of mortality of all mental illnesses. They are complex disorders triggered by environmental factors, and studies have shown weight stigma plays a significant role. Several studies conducted by The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University have found that more frequent exposure to stigma was related to more attempts to cope with maladaptive eating practices and higher BMI.

“Weight stigmatization is widespread in our society and affects individuals in multiple domains of life, often on a daily basis,” says Rebecca M. Puhl, Ph.D, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University. “We know from decades of research that children and adults are targets of weight stigmatization in educational institutions, employment settings, health care facilities, the media, and even from family members and friends. This has a devastating effect on people's quality of life, and leads to numerous consequences for emotional and physical health. Weight stigmatization is both a social injustice and a public health issue. We need to increase public awareness and societal efforts to address this problem. Otherwise, it will continue to create disparities, discrimination, and barriers to effective prevention and treatment for individuals affected by obesity.”

The call to action for BEDA’s first annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week is “Healing Myself First: Challenging Weight Stigma from the Inside Out.” BEDA encourages individuals to participate in several activities BEDA proposes as part of Weight Stigma Awareness Week, beginning with looking within to assess personal weight biases and becoming an advocate.

Turner says, “Let’s begin by asking ourselves, ‘Did I make fun of other kids when I was a child because they were overweight?’ ‘Do I look down on myself or others because of size? Do I exclude people based on body size? Do I contribute to ‘fat talk,’ such as, ‘I need to lose 10 pounds,’ or, ‘You’re too fat to wear that,’ or, ‘You look great! Did you lose weight?’”

A recent Journal of Pediatrics study found that children are bullied 63% more if they are overweight than for any other reason. Yet statutes do not include any language around size bullying. Individuals can write letters to members of congress in support of protecting overweight children from bullying.

For more information about BEDA’s first annual Weight Stigma Awareness Week, visit http://www.bedaonline.com.

For more information about The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, visit http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/.

Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) is a national organization focusing on the need to increase prevention, diagnosis, and treatment for binge eating disorder. Through education, outreach and support, and resources, BEDA is committed to facilitating awareness, quality of care, and recovery for those who live and those who work with binge eating disorder. For more information, visit http://www.bedaonline.com.

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