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The Weight of Stigma: World Obesity Day Encourages Understanding

Last updated: February 29, 2024

As we mark World Obesity Day, the World Obesity Federation shares some startling projections for the next decade. In 2035, we’re expected to see:

  • 1.9 billion people around the world living with obesity
  • $4.32 trillion estimated economic impact of overweight and obesity
  • 100% increase in childhood obesity (from 2020 to 2035)
  • 1 in 4 people living with obesity

The need to act is clear, as obesity can have a devastating impact on people’s physical and emotional health. World Obesity Day is about acknowledging the complexity of obesity, breaking down stereotypes, and advocating for multifaceted solutions.

Getting to the Root

Too often, people with obesity suffer from the effects of bias. That can come in many forms, but it’s rooted in a false assumption that people gain weight because of a personal failing or weakness.

Obesity is not an issue that stems from laziness or a lack of willpower. Instead, here’s what it is:

  • A complex condition
  • A chronic disease requiring lifelong care
  • A worldwide health concern
  • Treatable and manageable with the help of a comprehensive health care team

The roots of obesity run deep,” according to the World Obesity Federation. Each person is unique. Individuals may face a combination of factors that lead to obesity. These include:

  • Biology: The human body is hardwired to protect itself from starvation. This can make it challenging to maintain weight loss.
  • Food: Ultra-processed food, which is prevalent worldwide, contributes to obesity.
  • Genetic risk: Genes account for between 40% and 70% of the likelihood for developing obesity.
  • Health care access: Lack of access to health care can keep people from maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Life events and circumstances: Factors such as prenatal life, early adulthood, pregnancy, illness, and medications can influence weight gain.
  • Marketing: The marketing of certain types of foods has been linked to obesity.
  • Mental health: Symptoms of certain mental health disorders — and their associated medications — can lead to weight gain.
  • Sleep: Lack of sleep can cause hormone disturbances that affect weight.
  • Stigma: Weight discrimination and stigma can negatively impact people with obesity. This can cause poor self-esteem and stress and sometimes lead to an unwillingness to seek health care.

Effective Treatment

The ThedaCare Bariatrics team knows that treating the disease of obesity requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. Obesity care is lifelong — not just while a person is actively trying to lose weight, says Andrea Wolff, Supervisor of ThedaCare Bariatrics.

“Treatment must be science-based, focused on health, and include a range of treatment options,” she says. “Finding the most effective treatment plan for you may take time and several attempts, but don’t let that discourage you. ThedaCare has qualified providers who are ready, willing, and able to help you along your journey toward improved health.”

Asking for help with managing obesity takes courage. Here are some tools to get you started.

Ready to explore weight loss solutions?

Tags: Bariatric surgery obesity weight bias Weight Loss Surgery Weight Management World Obesity Day

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