People in Larger Bodies

Be aware of stereotypes when assessing & treating people of different sizes

Individuals living in a larger body can experience high levels of weight stigmatisation and discrimination, negatively impacting upon their treatment outcomes. 

Weight stigma can increase the risk for adverse psychological and behavioural issues, including depression, poor body image and disordered eating.  

In this video Dr Helen Rydge (Clinical Psychologist) introduces weight stigma in eating disorders.

Weight Neutrality 

People who engage in disordered eating patterns tend to be highly concerned about their body weight and shape.

It is very common for comments and even compliments about weight or shape to be taken out of context and interpreted negatively. It is therefore best to refrain from making any weight related comments.

Your approach to weight and the language that you use to discuss weight is important.  

There is evidence to suggest that when weight is the focus of treatment, there are negative impacts upon both psychological and physiological determinants. 

Instead, it is best to take the focus off weight, weight loss and shape, and instead focus on overall health and wellbeing. 

Ways to take the focus off weight: 

  • Remain neutral to the persons weight and weight trend. 
  • It can be tempting to try and make a person feel better if you suspect they may be unhappy or distressed about their weight
  • For example: “It probably doesn’t mean anything that your weight went up this week” Instead, try asking open questions of the person to assist them to explore their responses and the helpfulness of these.  
  • Refrain from making any comments or remarks about weight. 
  • Some comments can negatively affect body image and may influence what the individual chooses to share with you in future. 
  • For example: “well done”, “that’s good” or “that’s disappointing,”
  • Reflect back to the individual what has occurred with their weight. 
  • Be transparent and honest, and never try to conceal the outcome. 
  • Explore with the individual how they feel about their weight outcome. For example: “Anne, this week your weight has increased 700g. How do you feel about this?”
  • Provide support, empathy, reflect and affirm the individual.  

Professor Phillipa Hay (Psychiatrist) explores treating people in larger bodies who also experience an eating disorder.