Physical humiliation and harmful food culture are on the rise during COVID-19

Key points

  • Before the pandemic, physical stigma and weight discrimination were common problems, but COVID-19 comments and dietary pressure made the problem worse.
  • Researchers have determined that discrimination based on body size can have a negative impact on mental health.

With COVID-19 spreading around the world in early 2020, researchers are eager to learn about the virus as much as possible. What symptoms does it cause? How does it spread? Who is the most dangerous?

These necessary questions have led to a lot of research, which helps to increase the understanding of treatment methods, prevention strategies and vaccine possibilities. More and more studies link weight gain to increased risk of severe COVID symptoms, However, a wave of physical humiliation may have been unknowingly aroused.

Although physical humiliation is nothing new, the epidemic has led to harmful speech, from accusing people of heavier weight of contracting the virus or suffering from severe symptoms to more generally linking weight to health.

At a time when everyone is facing additional pressure, weight discrimination is an additional barrier for those whose bodies are considered to be beyond social norms. It has serious mental health consequences for the affected people.

Weight discrimination and COVID-19

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused extensive physical harm to many people infected with the virus. At the same time, the pandemic has caused a decline in global mental health.

Any form of discrimination can affect mental health. Given the association between weight and COVID-19, researchers have checked whether the body mass index (BMI) is related to the worsening of stress during this time. They are studying to what extent this pressure stems from weight discrimination, rather than more struggles against COVID.

There is evidence that a high BMI may affect the likelihood of developing a more serious form of COVID-19. According to a study published in the “Daily Mail”, although the goal of weight-based epidemiological research is to help prevent or treat high-risk populations, it seems that this information actually leads to a decline in mental health and reduces the risk of weight loss. Social support for discriminators.Journal obesity.

The researchers collected data in three rounds, with 1,590 participants from different states and demographic categories. These measures include issues related to BMI, psychological distress and weight discrimination. The data shows that because of the social impact of living as a clinically overweight person, those who report discrimination based on weight have a greater decline in life satisfaction during the pandemic.

Haley Neidich, LCSW, psychotherapist of Haley Neidich Psychotherapy and clinical director of, said: “Any form of shame can bring stress to the body. We know that stress is closely related to countless health and mental health conditions. ”

Neidich added: “Individuals who avoid doctors due to fear of weight discrimination may miss the opportunity to receive appropriate medical care and screening.” In times of physical and mental health crisis, everyone must remain vigilant.

Haley Neidich, LCSW

Shame in any form will bring stress to the body, and we know that stress is closely related to countless health and mental health conditions.

—Haley Neidich, LCSW

Physical shame and weight discrimination in practice

Physical shame is the result of negative perceptions of the individual’s body, including situations where the individual is considered underweight. Although the researchers focused on the stigma of being considered overweight, the data in this study showed that all people who experienced weight discrimination had higher baseline levels of depression and anxiety, regardless of their body mass index.

Those who reported experiencing weight discrimination at the beginning of the pandemic (in February) were twice as likely to develop clinical depression by March or April. This problem is of course not limited to pandemics.

Neidich talked about the prevalence of weight discrimination in daily life, he said: “Deep-rooted fat phobia is common in our culture and is one of the most widely accepted forms of discrimination. In fact, many people still think that making fun of someone ( Even children) obesity will help them lose weight. We are convinced that the opposite is true.” She added, “Many people of all shapes and sizes are ashamed of their bodies and weights.”

Haley Neidich, LCSW

As a culture, we need to better understand body stigma, educate ourselves and each other about the negative effects of obesity on health and mental health, and understand the importance of thin privilege and representation.

—Haley Neidich, LCSW

Due to the acceptance of fat phobia in our society, physical shame and weight-based discrimination are common in interpersonal and institutional levels. For example, those who are considered overweight are less likely to get a job offer. Recruitment is at the top of the list of discrimination based on weight, but doctors are also a source of reported discrimination.

Neidich said: “People who are obese or think older will usually avoid any interaction with doctors because they have rampant fat phobia. Many doctors will recommend weight loss after seeing patients. This is inhumane and will often lead to avoidance in the future. Appropriate medical care.”

“The entire’obesity epidemic’ framework focuses on changing the size and shape of people’s bodies, not on improving their health. We know, [most] The diet failed, but the doctor continued to recommend them instead of treating individual symptoms,” Neidich explained.

Rethink how we talk about weight

It has been reported that there is a correlation between high-grade depression and individuals with higher clinical BMI values. This study shows that discrimination related to body weight and higher BMI may lead to increased depression and anxiety.

In addition to pushing doctors to address their body size biases and be more empathetic in their methods, this may inform practitioners of ways to treat those who exhibit depression and anxiety during this period.

In addition, it is important to make individuals aware of how people’s choice of words and other forms of judgment can have a profound negative impact.

What this means to you

Physical shame and weight discrimination are common, but it is important to remember that society has created the concept of “good” or “bad” weight and has chosen to assign stereotypes to the numbers on the scale. Dieting is often proven not to work,We must separate the idea that weight and health are completely synonymous. However, if you and your trusted doctor agree that making changes is a good health decision for you, then you have many options to safely change your lifestyle.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.