The Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination

What is the Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination and why should you care about it?

What is it?

Organized by the Canadian Obesity Network and PREVNet, the summit is billed as an attempt to address the weight bias and discrimination systemic in Canadian society.

The organizers believe that discrimination of the obese is “widespread among the public, health professional, media, policy makers and employers”.

They also believe that this discrimination has profound effects upon the health of those struggling with excess body-fat – leading to increased vulnerability for depression, low self-esteem, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, an avoidance of physical activity, poor outcomes in behavioral weight loss programs and a reluctance to seek health care services.”

In essence, our discrimination of the overweight/obese leads to a further increase in their overweight/obesity and creates an ever-worsening cycle of obesity and poor health.

And that’s why you should care….according to the summit organizers.

Here’s why I think you should care.

People discriminate….they discriminate for a lot of reasons – weight, race, beauty, income, sex, music,  preference for body piercings, etc…

And not all discrimination is a bad thing.

For example, my ability to discriminate is what keeps me from watching crappy tv shows like Two and a Half Men. That’s good discrimination.

Unfortunately, there is also bad discrimination…discrimination which involves the prejudicial treatment of an individual based upon some personal  characteristic – weight, race, sexuality, etc…

The kind of discrimination where someone doesn’t get hired for a job because they’re fat or black or gay.

So, yes, I agree with the organizers of this summit that discrimination based on overweight/obesity is bad.

And, I also agree with them that people (doctors, media, policy makers, etc) who think that losing weight is as simple as “Eat Less & Move More” have no idea what the heck they are talking about.

Obesity is much more complex than that.

And yet….even though I agree with the two main ideas behind this little get together, I have to admit that I am more than a little concerned about what they are NOT saying in their promotional literature.

What’s got me creeped out is this little voice in my head telling me that there is a hidden agenda to not just shine a light on “the last socially acceptable form of discrimination”, but an intention to normalize obesity…to invalidate  personal responsibility…to create a protective bubble of victimhood around every obese person.

For the vast majority of people, obesity is a result of poor lifestyle choices.

Telling them that they are victims isn’t doing them a favor. It infantilizes them. It encourages them to give up on themselves.

And while we can argue that obesity is a disability, it is a disability that can be reversed.

But reversed by whom?

My concern is that by turning obese individuals into victims, we strip them of their self-control and give that control over to the health professionals and policy makers who organized this summit in the first place.

And that’s why I think you should care about the Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination.

And don’t think that because you’re not Canadian, this doesn’t apply to you. The world is a small place for the political correctness police.


Note: Keep in mind that my little voice of dread could be totally wrong. Everyone involved at the summit could have the best of intentions and I am just being paranoid.

Either way, seeing as they cancelled the press conference to the summit and are restricting access to the event itself, we will have to wait for post-summit press releases and any coverage given to the event by the big mainstream media companies.

When I know more, I will report back.

Bye for now.


Douglas Robb

Doug Robb is a personal trainer, a fitness blogger and author, a competitive athlete, and a student of nutrition and exercise science. He's also the co-founder of the Hive Health Media. Since 2008, Doug has expanded his impact by bringing his real-world experience online via the health & fitness blog – Health Habits.

3 thoughts on “The Canadian Summit on Weight Bias and Discrimination

  • June 20, 2011 at 7:45 am

    This is a complex issue, and will become worse as we raise a group of teens and preteens now who are obsessed with their weight. To find out if YOU are discriminating against others because of their weight, take any phrase, joke, or picture and substitute the word “black” or “gay” in the sentence and see if it sounds offensive. Oh, we would never tell that kind of joke about someone, because it is offensive, yet we do that every day regarding people based upon body size. In a world where gay people have many rights against discrimination, and rightly so, fat people have none. I can find more genetic proof of a propensity towards obesity than I can for homosexuality. Yet, we accept homosexuals as they are, for the people they are, just as we accept racial diversity. Because it is who they are. Treating people like social outcasts is not helping the problem, and the emotional distress people feel is so unnecessary, since it has nothing to do with the moral aspects of their character, the essence of who they are. A person should not be judged by their weight any more than they should be judged by their sexual orientation, economic status, or race.

  • January 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Well said- this can’t be seen as an endorsement of obesity. I think your blog continues to bring to light the many conflicting views that the public is subjected to with regard to fitness. For example, the US government subsidies vs sods tax. In the case of discrimination, it’s difficult because scientists and fitness experts remind us constantly that obesity may contribute to slowed cognitive function, speedy aging, a battery of diseases, early death, etc. All of this is meant to encourage people to lose weight, but of course others hearing this message are affected as well. Employers don’t want to spend money on somebody who may fit that description, and negative reinforcement that constant is just plain abusive to the intended targets of the message. Information overload has backfired. Positive support and reinforcement is definitely key

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