Stepping Up to Shut Down Harmful Health Stigma

Lourdes “Lulu” Garcia-Navarro has earned herself a new fan club. Simply, clearly, and better that most anyone who knows the subject of obesity, stigma, and health, she just told the world how weight stigma undermines our health. She showed us how health professionals are part of the problem. But most of all she showed us how we can use our own voices and life experiences as a super power to shut down health stigma.

A Powerful Personal Story

She just put it out there with her personal story – both the challenge and the path she found to a better place for herself and her health.

On Twitter she wrote that she gained a lot of weight in the pandemic, more than 50 pounds on top of already being overweight:

“For me that’s a problem because I’ve always suffered from obesity. It’s a disease that is about your body’s inability to store fat in a healthy way. But the way society sees it is as a willpower issue. Many doctors too.”

She sought medical help and her GP told her she had to prove herself before she could get any help. It was humiliating, depressing, and left her feeling hopeless “in a very dark place.”

A Culture of Blame and Shame

But this kind of incompetence for dealing with obesity is common in primary care. It’s an expression of our blame-and-shame, fat-phobic culture. It reflects simple ignorance of the metabolic disease of obesity. So she didn’t let it rest:

A Good Outcome

Garcia-Navarro conducted a masterclass with just one student on weight stigma and the harm it does to people living with obesity. Perhaps she taught this GP a little bit about obesity, too. It helps to be a Peabody award-winning journalist.

She eventually got the care she needed and it has been life-changing. Because of this care, including appropriate medication, she says she is enjoying good health:

“For the first time in my life I’m not spending every minute of every day thinking about my relationship to food.”

Getting competent healthcare for the most common chronic disease in America should not be this hard. But it’s bound to get a little easier if more of us can bring our voices forward to shut down health stigma. Because pervasive weight bias is simply unacceptable – especially from healthcare providers.

Click here and read every bit of Garcia-Navarro’s thread about this on Twitter. To read more about her stellar career in journalism, click here.

Lourdes “Lulu” Garcia-Navarro, photograph by Anders Krusberg for the Peabody Awards, licensed under CC BY 2.0

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May 8, 2022

One Response to “Stepping Up to Shut Down Harmful Health Stigma”

  1. May 09, 2022 at 7:37 am, Cathy Arsenault said:

    Great article. This situation is everywhere and most of use have also experienced it. I did for years and finally it shut me down. Totally. I gave up on me. Do doctors not take an oath? Do not harm? Shaming and blaming is harming. Obesity education for doctors needs to be mandatory as well as medical schools. Patients stories by patients need to be heard in teaching venues continually. I appreciate this story and hope it is heard.