Media outlets often tell us, that if we eat well, follow a balanced diet, and exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, we can ward off any chance of becoming overweight, or obese. However, the research tells another story, especially for women, and one that’s not as simplistic as calories in and energy out. There are other factors that influence the numbers on the scales, over and above the physiology of weight gain and loss. Let’s explore three interesting factors that impact weight and wellbeing for women and how the experience of their bodies, negatively effects their health, in an increasingly idealised and biased landscape.
1. The mental health impact of negative self-talk of women and their peers
The disparaging way that women speak about their weight and their bodies in front of other women, impacts their self-esteem, and their habits, in what has become a gender normative interaction amongst groups of women, with up to 93% of young women reporting this as normal. This negative self-talk influences disordered eating, excessive dieting and exercise, and higher rates of anxiety and depression (Arroyo et al., 2017). Encouraging women to be involved in healthy activities, because it feels rewarding and worthwhile, as opposed to using shame as a driving force, can create a much healthier connection to their bodies, and improve their mental health and sense of self.
2. Health outcomes of gender based medical discrimination
Research has shown that if you’re an obese woman seeking medical care from your GP, you’re more likely to experience prejudice than non-obese patients. Surveyed women found that their weight became the focal point for medical advice, even when this was not the reason they sought treatment. They also felt their health concerns were not taken seriously, because they were perceived as “…fat and lazy” and that this was their “fault” (Williams, 2018). Obviously, this impacts the chance of a positive health outcome, whether weight related or not.
3. Increased rates of weight loss surgery for women