Weight-inclusive health care means a focus on.
This includes practices such as eating for overall well-being rather than for the number of calories. It may also include prioritizing activities to reduce stress, avoiding smoking, drinking less alcohol and striving to be physically active in enjoyable ways.
A weight-inclusive approach to health seeks to undo the harms caused by weight stigma.
People with larger bodies often experienceas discrimination, prejudice, negative stereotypes and judgments from others – including their own doctors and other health care providers. More than 40% of U.S. adults across a range of body sizes report in their day-to-day lives.
Avoiding this stigma is likely a major driver behind the great lengths people in the U.S. go to in order to lose weight. Market data shows that Americans spent someon weight loss products and programs in 2021. In addition, weight loss efforts start early, with nearly half of all high school students in the U.S. reporting that they .
I am aand studying the consequences of weight stigma and working to develop weight-inclusive nutrition interventions.
Initially my private practice and research approach were. A weight-centered approach focuses on weight loss to achieve health and is widely accepted in health care settings across the world. After over a decade of work in public health nutrition, I have witnessed how, in my view, the weight-centered approach harms individuals and communities. So I have shifted to using a in practice and research.
Overturning the ‘lower weight equals better health’ dogma
There is an extensive body of research andindicating that with , such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
As a result, there is a pervasive misconception that a weight-inclusive approach disregards the patient’s health concerns. However, proponents of weight-inclusive care argue that a weight-inclusive approachby destigmatizing weight status and promoting health equity. They also acknowledge that there are links between and various health concerns.
The dogma that lower weight is synonymous with better health is being questioned by public health researchers and health care providers. Scientists and clinicians are calling for aaway from a , as indicators of health.
Advocacy groups like the Association for Size Diversity and Health have long been promoting theapproach. This weight-inclusive approach affirms a socially just definition of health and advocates for equitable health care regardless of weight status. More recently, the American Medical Association released a statement outlining the as a clinical measurement.
The evidence supporting weight-inclusive care
Substantial research shows that behaviors such as stopping smoking and drinking less alcohol can prevent disease and. For example, a systematic review of one clinical trial and 152 observational peer-reviewed studies reported that a with low or moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of death for everyone.
Another example: One of my own clients with high cholesterol said that focusing on weight loss over their lifetime had left them stuck in a cycle of weight loss and weight regain, disordered eating, inconsistent and extreme exercise habits and body image concerns. After adopting weight-inclusive practices such as eating more fiber-rich foods and being more physically active, instead of focusing on losing weight, their cholesterol levels returned to normal.
Both the weight-inclusive approach and the weight-centered approach can include diet changes, increasing physical activity and reducing stress as key components to manage and prevent diseases. However, the weight-inclusive approach works to end weight stigma and acknowledges that factors such as socioeconomic status, culture and– collectively called the – have huge impacts on a person’s body weight, shape and size. Even if a person could adhere to strict dieting and exercise routines, there will always be affecting health and weight that the individual can’t control.
What’s more, evidence indicates that people who lose weight generally don’t have better long-term health and.
Finding weight-inclusive health care
There are several things that people can look for in a.
Look for health care providers who:
- Make weight checks optional for routine visits.
- Treat patient symptoms rather than telling them to lose weight.
- Provide patients in larger bodies the same treatment as those in thinner bodies with similar health concerns.
- Use measures other than BMI, such as lab results, to diagnose health concerns.
- Ask permission before discussing weight with patients.
For additional resources on weight-inclusive care, check out the. Consider examining your own weight bias by taking an online test focused on .