In the cold eyes of strangers: Perception in the media…

The framing of obesity in the news media is integral to the public’s understanding of obesity. Research shows that the news media often frames obesity in terms of personal responsibility, focusing on individual causes of obesity (e.g., eating an unhealthy diet) and individual-level solutions (e.g., changing one’s diet). This focus on personal responsibility eclipses other important dimensions of the obesity epidemic and often unfairly blames obese individuals, potentially reinforcing weight bias.

News coverage of obesity has increased dramatically in recent years, and studies show that coverage of the personal causes and solutions to obesity significantly outnumber other societal attributions of responsibility. Through an analysis of 751 articles on obesity published in The New York Times between 1990 and 2001, it was demonstrated that obesity was presented as a moral panic through which blame is placed on individuals. Furthermore, discussions of obesity were influenced by pre-existing cultural and moral understandings about fatness, which tend to focus on individual willpower.

Although news reports discussing other dimensions of obesity (e.g., environmental, cultural, or biological explanations) are beginning to increase, personal responsibility arguments continue to be strongly expressed. It is interesting to note that references to personal solutions for obesity continue to outnumber references to personal causes. Thus, despite a broader understanding of the causes of obesity, solutions remain within the individual.

I will argue that unlike other public health issues (e.g., AIDS and cancer), the media seldom discusses the implications of its perspective on those affected by obesity, which may be damaging to individuals’ health by invoking feelings of shame, guilt, and inadequacy. However, to the extent that the media serves to alienate those who are overweight, the consequences of weight prejudice are deemed to have no bearing on the issue of obesity, thus in my opinion, not only incredibly hurtful and damaging, but also counter productive to the nth-degree!

Attaining and maintaining weight loss successfully is not entirely about eating and exercising. Thinking patterns also have a profound and often under-appreciated impact on lasting weight loss. Certain skills are needed for these patterns to contribute to maintaining weight loss; some of these skills include problem solving, goal setting and coping skills.

Coping skills are needed during a significant change in life events such as a job change, pregnancy, loss of a loved one or relocation. These situations often bring on feelings of anxiety, depression and frustration, which are linked with weight gain. Coping skills can help manage stress levels during the emotional episodes that are part of everyone’s life.

The good news is that coping skills can be learned. For example, a few coping skills include establishing sound sleeping habits, exercising and meditating. Developing coping skills helps lead to managing stress in a positive way and can prevent eating in response to a tough situation.

Agreed, while eating and exercise habits are important parts of losing weight, thinking patterns play an essential role as well. Learning or strengthening coping skills assists in dealing with life stressors in a constructive way and supports long-term weight loss.

Bottom line, what the media has to say, or anyone for that matter, that isn’t supportive and loving ~ truly matters not! Don’t let the nay sayers determine success or lack thereof. Had I allowed people’s views (those of me as the fat girl) to immobilize me from pursuing my dream of being healthy and fit ~ where would I be now? Scarier still, would I even be here now?

As such, don’t let anything serve as an obstacle for you in reaching your healthy goal weight! Simply put, be committed to gently implementing positive and healthy changes one bite at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time….and you will succeed!

I know you can do this, do you? I pray you do!

Be committed to success! Be unstoppable!

Much love, light, and success to you!