According to one website, ‘health exists on a continuum that varies with time and circumstance for each individual’. In other words, my definition of health can look completely different to the person sitting on the train next to me. And more importantly, that definition will change and evolve many times within our own lifetimes.
Weight inclusivity is a simple, yet apparently radical concept; accepting that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes and rejecting the idea of a healthy weight.
When we associate health with a particular body type or weight, not only do we make potentially harmful assumptions about people’s health based on a number, but we effectively exclude people from health care settings.
According to a paper published earlier this year titled ‘An Evidence-Based Rationale for Adopting Weight-Inclusive Health Policy’, it is clear that ‘there is strong evidence that not all heavier individuals experience poor health, and thus policy should not treat all heavier individuals as though they do’.
If we move away from this narrative of “slim equals healthy”, and stop policing larger bodies, we can focus on health outcomes in a holistic sense and ensure inclusivity regardless of size.
The practice of weight inclusivity extends itself to the concept of respectful care. Respectful care means bringing an end to weight discrimination, stigma and bias.
According to a 2017 article published in BMC Medicine Journal, ‘stigma has direct and observable consequences for the quality and nature of services provided to those with obesity, leading to yet another potential pathway through which weight stigma may contribute to higher rates of poor health’.
If we are to appropriately address higher rates of poor health for those with larger bodies, weight inclusive health initiatives need to be brought to the forefront of our healthcare practices.
It’s important to note the myths and assumptions that surround weight inclusive health practices, as misinformation is what continues to undermine its place within our health care settings.
The most common misconception being, is that every person is healthy regardless of their size. In actuality, the practice of weight inclusivity within health care settings asserts that every person deserves the right to pursue health regardless of their size or weight.
Health should be a resource that anyone can access at any given time, and not reserved for those who our healthcare gatekeepers deem as worthy.
Now is the time for us to reject weight-based discrimination, champion access and equity, and put forward a very simple demand: good medical care, despite weight or the perception of an unhealthy weight.
We have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that each and every person’s experience within the medical system is a positive one.
It is my hope that as health practitioners come to understand the principles of weight inclusivity, they will all eventually come to the same conclusion; everyone deserves appropriate and respectful health care, regardless of their size.