I was embarrassed by who I was. Or more accurately, the way I used to think of myself was that I was embarrassed by what I was.
I am certainly a human being; there is no doubt. I am as human now as I was then -- although I often felt at times that I was "something else" prior to my gastric bypass surgery. I thought of myself as a personal and social embarrassment, a living and breathing visual of crippled willpower.
I was sure people were judging me poorly because I was obese, although there was no legitimate cause for me to assume this except for my poor self-esteem. Surely, there must be at least one person who was not formulating some negative opinion about me. There were days when I had my doubts.
When I ate, I was on autopilot: fork to plate to mouth, fork to plate to mouth. When a passerby caught my eye, the spell would be broken and the self-deprecation would begin. They must be grading my eating habits, measuring the size of the portion that was in front of me, weighing the amount of food that was in my mouth at the time. The final verdict was always the same: She has no willpower; she is lazy; she does not care.
None of it was true. I cared so much that both my health and heart were broken.
Perceptions About Obesity and the Negative Stigma
As it tuned out, some of the thoughts I had regarding what others believed about obese people were accurate. Many think that obesity is the result of
poor self-control, non-compliance with recommendations, or some underlying mental health issue. The stigma is fueled further if obesity is thought to be the result of factors that can be controlled. An uncontrollable cause such as a thyroid condition merits greater understanding from laypersons.
I do not necessarily fault those people because I shared some of their opinions, even after my bariatric surgery. Some of the old embarrassment and stigmatization remain with me. I wondered why it was that I had to have a major surgery that permanently altered me anatomically because I could not control my eating. Many of the rude and hurtful comments aimed at me had rooted, and I too, shared the fallacious stereotypes about obesity.
Bias in the Workplace
Bias against obese people in the workplace has been identified in the areas of hiring practices, promotions, wages, and terminations.
Obese people are less likely to be hired than thinner applicants despite equal qualifications. Obese people are less likely to get promoted than non-obese people. Obese women can earn as much as 12% less than thinner women. Obese people are often fired because of employer prejudices about their weight.
Misperceptions About Obesity Held by Healthcare Professionals
Many healthcare professionals hold stereotypical opinions about obese people including beliefs that obese people are lazy, non-compliant, and undisciplined.
In a study involving over 600 physicians, it was found that over half believed that their obese patients were awkward, unattractive, and non-compliant.
What to Do About Stigmatization
The ideal solution would be a public that is educated about the stigmas and realities of obesity. Laws against discrimination of obese individuals would be another leap forward. Until then, there are support groups among the weight-loss community that are useful and supportive.
Although it has been years since I have been classified as obese, some of the old stigmas remain. Very few people know about my bariatric surgery. In part, this is because the stigmas about obesity and the stigmas about corrective weight-loss surgeries are similar. Many people just do not understand and continue to be judgmental and harsh.
Although pain is not simply dusted away like buildup on a table top, life has gotten much better since my weight-loss surgery. It has been worth it, and I have found that there are also many good and understanding people in the world. They are there for you too.
Admert Obesity Management Centre http://www.obesitysurgeryindia.org/stigma.html accessed 4/16/12
Obesity http://www.nature.com/oby/journal/v16/n2s/full/oby2008457a.html accessed 4/16/12
Obesity Action Coalition http://www.obesityaction.org/magazine/oacnews3/Stigma%20of%20Obesity.pdf accessed 4/16/12
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You can read about my decision to have weight loss surgery back in 2003 and my journey to maintain a lifetime of obesity disease management since that time. My wish is to help you on your own journey of lifetime obesity disease management with shareposts along the way to help you navigate that journey successfully.
Published On: April 22, 2012