Coronavirus, Health, Covıd-19, Body Positivity, Wellness, Obesity

Coronavirus, Health

Weight Isn't The Problem With COVID-19. How We Talk About It Is.

The fatphobic messaging around obesity and coronavirus risk, as well as pandemic weight gain, needs to change ASAP.

10/1/2020 9:43:00 PM

The fatphobic messaging around obesity and coronavirus risk, as well as pandemic weight gain, needs to change ASAP.

The fatphobic messaging around obesity and coronavirus risk, as well as pandemic weight gain, needs to change ASAP.

that public health officials are promoting right now.“What’s interesting to me is that all of these messages claim to care about people’s health,” Rosenbluth said. “But as we know, extreme dieting or dieting of any kind is physically harmful.”Not to mention the stress this might cause people in larger bodies. “Telling [higher-weight] people they’re more likely to die, for them to be under that kind of stress, is obviously also very unhealthy,” Rosenbluth said.

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And although the evidence linking higher weights to greater risk of complications from COVID-19 is shaky, the fear and stress felt by those in larger bodies is warranted.“A lot of [my higher-weight clients] are even more scared than the average person of even leaving their house,” Rosenbluth said. “There’s this fear of, ‘If they run out of ventilators, am I going to be last on the list because they’re looking at me as someone who brought this on themself.’ That does happen.”

Aon the link between weight and H1N1 found that higher-weight people were less likely to be prescribed early antiviral treatment, which itself increases their risk of poor outcomes.DisobeyArt via Getty ImagesData on weight and COVID-19 isn't exactly as straightforward as it's being presented.

Think twice before making comments about weight and COVID-19, or weight in general.As Thoune and Cooper Stoll explained, the issues of weight stigma and fatphobia, particularly during COVID-19, are so hard to address because most people don’t realize that they exist. We hear respected individuals and organizations talk about the risks of being at a higher weight, or the benefits of weight loss, and we don’t think twice about how these messages might be harmful.

The fact is, the public health and medical communities may never change their messaging on weight as a risk factor for COVID-19 and other diseases. There are, of course, cases where weight can matter for health risk. But a blanket assumption, without taking into account other factors of a person’s life, isn’t doing any favors, which is why doctors need to look at a person’s full health profile rather than just focus on someone’s body mass index (

which is a deeply flawed tool also, by the way).No matter your stance on the topic — maybe you believe that it’s possible to be healthy at a higher weight, maybe you don’t — at least make space for the idea that obesity and weight loss messaging is inherently stigmatizing to people at higher weights.

Keep in mind also that weight loss isn’t possible for many people, despite what we’re led to believe.Most importantly, be compassionate. These are traumatizing times for pretty much everyone, and there’s no need to make things worse for people who already live in marginalized bodies.

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