How to Handle Weight Stigma in Eating Disorder Treatment

It’s not uncommon to experience weight stigma in eating disorder treatment.

So, how can someone in a larger body find the courage to seek recovery when so much of the world and the medical field overlooks their experience, and treats their size like it’s a problem?

This was a question Rachel, a listener from our community, wrote in to be answered on The Recovery Warrior Shows.

In our mission to help you learn from the best, we connected with Virgie Tovar. She’s a popular author, activist, and influential voice in the fight against weight based discrimination and body image issues.

As a larger bodied person of color, Virgie brings a wealth of knowledge and empathy to her work, and her tireless efforts have led to significant improvements in health outcomes for many individuals.

Keep reading to learn the tips she shared on how to handle weight stigma in eating disorder treatment and recovery.

What is Weight Stigma?

Weight stigma refers to the negative attitudes, beliefs, stereotypes, and discriminatory behaviors that are directed towards individuals based on their body weight or size. It involves the social devaluation and marginalization of people in larger bodies, often leading to bias, prejudice, and poor treatment.

Humans deserve better than what’s available to us now. We can create that better world.

Weight stigma can present in various ways, including teasing, bullying, fat shaming, and body shaming. It can occur in different settings, such as schools, workplaces, healthcare facilities, and media representations.

Weight Stigma and Eating Disorder Treatment

It’s no secret that body size discrimination can be a significant barrier for larger bodied individuals seeking eating disorder recovery. Society often overlooks the reality that eating disorders do not discriminate. Anyoneregardless of their body size—can be affected.

Both internalized and externalized weight stigma can prevent larger bodied individuals from seeking the care they need and deserve. As such, it’s crucial to find hope and motivation when seeking care.

Learning how to advocate for yourself and focus on maintaining a fat-positive perspective can go a long way in overcoming these challenges. Not only will this help you break down internalized stigma, but it can also empower you into championing a bigger movement.

So, let’s dive into how to find hope and motivation amidst a discriminatory world. You CAN rebuild a brighter and healthier future for yourself.

Here are the steps to get increased self-advocacy and hope for recovery:

  1. Acknowledge and grieve unfair treatment
  2. Embrace fat activism and fat positivity
  3. Identify your personal helpers and tools

1. Acknowledge and grieve unfair treatment

Seeking eating disorder recovery as a larger bodied individual can be an uphill journey. We live in a world that continues to discriminate based on body size. It’s essential to acknowledge and grieve the unfair treatment you receive.

Many medical practitioners treat larger bodied individuals with a condescending attitude, considering their size as a problem that needs to be solved. This pervasive outlook only pushes people away from much-needed and deserved help and support to embark on the journey to recovery.

Virgie Tovar discussed how larger bodied individuals can find the courage to seek recovery in a biased world. She suggests taking the time to grieve over the unfair treatment, and acknowledge that it’s not easy to pursue recovery.

Sit with the grief of it. The grief that this isn’t fair, this shouldn’t be happening.

Acknowledging and grieving the oppression is a crucial step towards building resilience and self advocacy skills. In turn, it empowers you to push for changes in the world.

By understanding the importance of acknowledging and grieving unfair treatment, you become better equipped to embrace self-advocacy and foster hope in the journey to recovery, eventually contributing to a more inclusive and equitable society where all humans are treated with dignity and respect.

2. Embrace Fat Activism and Fat Positivity

One key step to rising above these barriers is embracing fat activism and fat positivity. These are movements that challenge traditional notions of health, beauty, and worthiness based on size. So by taking on a mindset that advocates for the inherent value, dignity, and respect of larger bodies, you begin to see yourself as deserving of recovery. Additionally, it builds resilience in the face of prejudiced attitudes and beliefs.

Virgie Tovar provides insight into the power of fat activism and fat positivity in the recovery journey. She emphasizes the importance envisioning a future where all individuals, regardless of size, are accepted and valued.

Fat positivity is about being able to jettison between the moment we’re in now, and a future moment that we’re fighting for

This is a key step in the recovery process. It provides the tools and confidence necessary to seek professional support, engage in self care and achieve a lasting and meaningful recovery. By recognizing the societal injustice and bias in weight based discrimination, you create a sense of self worth and value that transcends physical appearance. Now, you can more effectively navigate the road to recovery.

The empowerment that comes from fat activism and fat positivity, not only helps your personal healing but also carries the potential to transform societal attitudes toward body size and promote a more inclusive, empathetic world for everyone.

3. Identify Your Helpers and Tools

In a world where larger bodied individuals are often subject to discrimination and biases, having a support system and empowering tools makes a big difference. By identifying your helpers and honing your skills, you can more effectively advocate for your recovery and continue pushing forward. Even when faced with the constant messaging that might try to hold you back.

Virgie Tovar, shared examples of her helpers and tools. For her it’s donning bold make-up, or her hot pink blazer that makes her feel empowered! Or sometimes it’s a soft squishy toy that serves as a comfort object. She also employs mental tools like affirmations, podcasts, and relating to other people’s stories. By surrounding yourself with such helpers, you gradually build the strength required to self advocate.

Remember, it IS possible to find hope and motivation to pursue recovery while subjected to weight stigma in eating disorder care. It requires a commitment to self-advocacy and recognizing the importance of personal helpers and tools.

I have so much hope. I’ve done this work for over ten years. There hasn’t been a day where I felt like reducing weight stigma can’t be done.

Acknowledge and embrace the helpers and tools that facilitate your journey, to cultivate resilience and support.

Taking on Weight Stigma in Eating Disorder Treatment

Remember the power of community as you take on weight sigma in eating disorder treatment and the medical field. This work is important for your individual recovery journey AND it contributes to a larger movement over time.

The journey towards eating disorder recovery for larger bodied individuals is often fraught with extra challenges in a world where discrimination based on body size is common. However, by following the steps shared by Virgie Tovar, you can rise above these obstacles.

Remember that healing comes in small, incremental steps. Celebrate your successes and learn from your failures to cultivate hope for a brighter future. Your efforts will not only benefit your own recovery but also contribute to creating a more compassionate and supportive environment for others who face similar challenges.

The guidance provided by Virgie Tovar serves as both inspiration and a reminder of the power of both inner strength and the collective effort towards a world where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of size.

Click here to learn more about Equip.

Connect with Virgie Tovar & Equip

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