Weighing in on the health and ethical implications of British Columbia's weight-centered health paradigm

Date created: 
Judith Sixsmith
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Public Policy
Weight-centered health paradigm
Overweight and obesity
Weight stigma
Public policy
Health at Every Size (HAES)
Eating disorder prevention

Promotion of the weight-centered health paradigm through weight reduction policies and programs may lead to negative health outcomes such as eating disorders, mental health issues and harms from weight cycling and social stigmatization. This study asked why the weight-centered paradigm is uncritically relied upon in public policy and identified effective alternatives to it. Methods used to explore this were discourse analysis of policy documents, case studies of research on Health at Every Size and stakeholder interviews to evaluate policy alternatives. Three policy options are recommended for government adoption: i) weight bias training for health care professionals; ii) framing health promotion in “healthy weight” not “obesity reduction” language; and iii) ensuring health surveillance is not limited to measuring weight alone and involves tracking for unintended outcomes (e.g. eating disorders). A further recommendation suggests that eating disorder prevention professionals take a lead role in advocating for health- rather than weight-centered approaches.

Thesis type: 
(Project) M.P.P.
Document type: 
Graduating extended essay / Research project
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