Shame Doesn't Make People More Well

As practitioners, we have the privilege of using our voice to tell some of the many stories that have been shared with us form individuals who face stigmatization and oppression on a daily basis. I recently had the opportunity to give a presentation and expose some of the most problematic ways that we (as nutrition/health care professionals) don’t make people feel safe and welcome in our offices. I discussed weight bias, problematic language and alternatives that are less harmful, ways we communicate without saying anything at all (ex: having small chairs with arms in our office that don’t work for all body sizes), and how to give ourselves compassion as we are learning to do better (leave the perfectionism behind) as allies.

“Many people are so afraid of having to be weighed and tired of receiving unsolicited weight loss lectures and judgement about their ‘health’, that they don’t go to the doctor- they don’t get check ups or screenings, they don’t ask for help when they are sick or have a complicated relationship with food, they shy away from mental health therapy, they don’t reach out when they are in pain- but they do carry a ton of shame instead. Shame doesn’t make people more well.”

Another very important topic we covered was the fact that pathologizing higher weight bodies is harmful and unethical. Fat is not unhealthy. Just like thin doesn’t equal healthy. Fat and thin, larger or smaller…these are descriptors and if a practitioner is using them to diagnose, not only is this stigmatizing (which imposes psychological and social harm), but is an incompetent medical/nutritional/therapeutic practice.

There were many really great questions post presentation and a ton of positive feedback, which makes me extremely excited to see people wanting to learn and unlearn! Some days are a complete high in the work that we do, and some days are really hard. Yesterday was a really good day. Together we can do better.

Haley GoodrichComment