This week I had the most fascinating talk on the All Fired Up! Podcast with Ashlee Bennett, AKA The Fat Therapist. Living in diet culture means that weight stigma and prejudice is everywhere, soaked into the atmosphere and like second-hand smoke it impacts on all of us.
We like to think that going to therapy is a safe space, regardless of our body size. The truth is that we’re all just humans at the end of the day, and all of our human imperfections can come out in the therapy room.
The term ‘weight stigma’ means the social devaluation of people in larger bodies. “Internalised weight stigma’ is when larger people BELIEVE that they are worth less than thin people. Internalised weight stigma means that the person has come to AGREE with diet culture.
Most people who come to therapy will have internalised weight stigma. Many therapists working with larger people may also be weight biased.
This is totally understandable as it is virtually impossible to make it to adulthood in this culture without being beaten around the head with the constant ‘fat-is’-bad’ messages.
The problem can get worse though, if a person with internalised weight stigma coming to therapy sees a therapist who ALSO has unexamined weight stigma. In this scenario, far from being empowered through therapy to recognise and push back against diet culture, the person is more likely to have their internalised weight bias reinforced. And that doesn’t help anyone!
There’s a fabulous blog post by Cheri Erdman which delved deeply into this topic, I highly recommend it for therapists and their clients alike! It’s my fervent hope for our profession that we get much, much better at training therapists in weight stigma. Of course, this means a huge cultural shift away from being completely hung up on weight, towards the nirvana of weight neutral care that we deserve. But if we raise the issue more and more – think of the consequences!
Fiona Willer and I run training courses for health professionals to help unpack weight stigma. Check out our training dates and locations for 2018 here.