Why society stigmatizes weight loss

By ANNE LIU ’17

Sports & Wellness Editor

In society today, weight has become an increasingly touchy subject. In fact, there is a term for it: weightism. This term encompasses all the prejudices society bears on weight. Remember that boy that everyone looked down upon in third grade because he was slightly chubby, or remember the whispers about the girl that left one summer and came back having shed twenty pounds? Weight stigmas exist everywhere, but specifically, stigmas against weight loss are perplexing.

“There are plenty of reasons why someone may want to lose weight that have nothing to do with appearances, but everyone always chooses to believe that losing weight is a sign of weakness and insecurity,” Rose Burnam ’17 said.

There are many reasons that may cause people to lose weight, including joint issues, diabetes, digestive issues, dental issues, sports, dining hall food (just kidding, but not really), cancer and insecurities based on appearance.

Out of the eight reasons to lose weight listed above, only one of them corresponds to insecurities surrounding someone’s appearance. The rest are directly related to improving someone’s health. So why do we always automatically assume that the girl who left for one summer and returned at a still healthy but much lighter weight has an eating disorder and lost all that weight because she was insecure? If weight is lost simply for the sake of improving someone’s quality of life and health, then why should it be looked down upon as it often is? More importantly, why do we automatically assume that losing weight stems from insecurities, when there are plenty of other reasons someone may have for weight loss?

One possible cause for the hyper-awareness of insecurity surrounding someone’s appearance could stem from Hollywood, where teenagers nowadays aspire to have their favorite celebrity’s perfect body. The perfect bodies these teenagers pursue don’t exist; they are creations manipuluated by software such as Photoshop.

Society has adapted to assume that any change in appearance stems from insecurities and aspirations to look better, prettier and more desirable. Take weight loss infomercials as an example. Most often, companies depict their clients as unhappy and undesirable before they lose an enormous amount of weight, and suddenly, these clients attain all they have ever desired and feel incredibly fulfilled with their new life. In doing so, society is made to believe two falsities. The first is that people who are overweight are incredibly unhappy and insecure in their lives. The second is that the cause of all their unhappiness is their weight. Now, when we see that girl walking around school who lost all that weight over the summer, it was not because she got the stomach bug or braces that she lost the weight, but because she was insecure and unhappy with her weight.

So the next time someone loses weight and people start whispering, think about why people are even whispering. Perhaps most importantly, think about why it is even up to any of us to judge the reasons behind someone’s weight loss.

3 Comments

  • Mr. Bean! says:

    I guess it is part of the political correctness that has been going around – we seem to have lost a lot of our freedom in what we like to do or like to say nowadays.

    As you say, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight and every good reason to do so in fact – so let’s not bother with what the society has got to say and just do what we think is right for ourselves to do.

  • Anto M. says:

    I agree that losing weight might make someone think that you lost the weight because you feel insecure. However, I think it also depends on the shape of your body or how fit you are after you lose the weight.

    If the girl who left one summer came back looking skinny and her bones are protruding, then yes, most people will ask if she has an eating disorder. But if she came back with a lean, toned muscular body (and maybe even a golden tan), then I think people will see she lost the weight in a very healthy way – and she looks more vibrant now.

    So it’s not only about how much weight you lose but also HOW you lose the weight. The best way to lose weight is to cut the fat but gain muscle in return so you get a well developed body and long term health benefits.

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