FUTURE HEALTH PROFESSIONALS
WEIGHT INCLUSIVE CARE FOR FUTURE HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS
This free resource was developed to get you, our aspiring health professionals, started on your weight inclusive journey
The following resource was developed by Emma Sanders, a University of Melbourne Bachelor of Science student who is passionate about future health professionals understanding and implementing weight inclusive healthcare.
What it includes:
- Glossary with all key terms
- What you can do: an A-Z guide
- Additional Resources
BCC Placement Student
& Future Health Professional
"As (aspiring) health professionals, people trust us to uphold the greatest standard of care and highly regard our opinions and advice. It is part of our job to ensure that healthcare settings, such as a doctor’s office or physiotherapist’s consulting room, are a place of body confidence and body safety, and NOT a risk factor for body dissatisfaction and eating disorder development. Therefore, it is important that we adopt a weight and size-inclusive approach to healthcare."
"As a student who has studied physiology, health and nutrition units, I have witnessed the perpetuation of weight-centric and fatphobic healthcare. It was not until lockdown hit, and my (along with everyone else’s) social media consumption skyrocketed, that I began to become aware of, and unlearn, the toxic beliefs that diet culture and a fatphobic society had drilled into me for years. I also learned the importance of acknowledging my body privileges in this space (as a white, thin, cis-het person), and how myself and others with thin privilege must listen to people with lived experience of weight stigma, and centre/amplify their voices. Accordingly, I implore you to look at the resources I have listed below from people with lived experience. It is my goal for you too to become aware of these issues and continue to do the work to unlearn these beliefs, so that, together, we can positively shape the future of healthcare."
WEIGHT INCLUSIVE HEALTHCARE TO SUPPORT BODY CONFIDENCE
WEIGHT AS AN (INACCURATE)
INDICATOR OF HEALTH
Weight is frequently used as an indicator of health. In a society entrenched in diet culture and fatphobic beliefs, we are taught thinness equates to health. In our university courses, we discuss weight and body mass index (BMI) as a measure of health. More recently, the accuracy of BMI as a predictor of health is being questioned (finally!). However, the use of weight as an indicator of health and pathologising terms such as “overweight” and “obese” is still common, which can be harmful.
WEIGHT STIGMA AND FATPHOBIA
In a world pervaded by diet culture, it is not uncommon for healthcare professionals (like many other people) to have strong weight biases and fatphobic beliefs about people in bigger bodies. These can exist as views that people in bigger bodies are medically dangerous, morally lax, or that their body shape is a result of their own failing. These beliefs and biases are incredibly harmful and can often be reflected in the infrastructure seen in healthcare settings. For example, waiting room chairs, examination beds, gowns and data collection equipment can sometimes be too small for people in bigger bodies. This can negatively impact data collection, healthcare quality and access (if patients cannot access a doctor’s clinic safely and comfortably, why would they return?), and therefore increase the risk of potential health conditions worsening.
WEIGHT (STIGMA) AS A RISK FACTOR
We are taught that higher body weight is a risk factor for mortality and chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Whilst some studies may show this association, it is important to note that weight science is so much more complicated than correlations, and we do know that weight stigma (the stigmatisation of body weight) is a stronger predictor than weight itself. When patients in bigger bodies are stigmatised, it can dramatically decrease the quality, and even quantity, of care they receive, negatively impact their willingness to seek care, increase stress levels and in the long-term, cause negative physiological health effects. This may explain why there are associations between people who experience weight stigma and certain chronic conditions.
Even if we were to focus on weight change, this is not a viable long term solution, and it can cause further stigmatisation and consequently harm to the individual.
INDIVIDUALISED WEIGHT INCLUSIVE CARE
A large proportion of the research that healthcare professionals rely on to support practice is weight-centric. Experiences of people in larger bodies are typically not encapsulated in this literature because access to these spaces is limited by privilege. This is why it is important to focus on providing empathetic, patient-centred care which focuses on patients’ lived experiences, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. A doctor describes this below:
“…. I underestimated how much every community member had heard the same thing from every doctor they saw. Even if every doctor had good intentions when they said, “maybe you should exercise,” [the community members] had already heard it so many times before that it just became white noise. I think I would want to keep that in mind whenever I talk to patients, that I’m not the first doctor that they’ve seen and if I want to really have an impact on them, I need to think carefully about individualising my care and making sure I’m not just saying the same thing everyone else has said and being specific to their needs.”