I read a lively Twitter discussion a few days ago which began with a request to stop using stigmatizing pictures in articles pertaining to obesity. There is absolutely no reason for this practice to continue as the media has access to appropriate imagery via the Obesity Action Coalition, the World Obesity Federation, the Canadian Obesity Network and the Rudd Center. Please share these links for patient education materials, media stories, etc. But I digress. Some snarky troll had responded to my friend's post by asking what's wrong with calling a spade a spade? I took my really big chill pill, deleted my first response filled with expletives, and instead responded with a simple question. Why can't we just address a human as a human?
I mean, seriously, other than the specific intent to cause another emotional pain, why would you feel the need to label someone by anything other than their name? Please, stop now and utilize the comments section to explain this to me like I'm a two year old. I extend this question beyond weight to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, age, etc. I've found any time I hear someone use the phrase, "them" or "us," it's usually not because of a sense of inclusion, but rather exclusion.
We can carry this "trend" of treating others humanely by choosing to use people first language when talking about obesity. For example when giving my work history, I would say. "For the last 15 years I've worked with individuals affected by obesity," as opposed to saying, "For the last 15 years I've worked with the obese." There are multiple reasons for utilizing people first language, first and foremost because we are defined by who we are as an individual, not by our health issues and certainly not by our weight.
I realize there are uninformed and misinformed individuals affected by rampant stupidity and ignorance who believe if you are affected by obesity then it is solely because you are lazy and lack willpower. I know this because on several occasions in my adult life I have had assumptions made about me because of my size. Prior to having #BariatricSurgery I applied for a case manager position. I was qualified and met or exceeded every single requirement. I was interviewed and hired for the position. Several months into the position I mentioned to my administrator that I was embarrassed every time our Medical Director would ask me to go with him to the rehab hospital because he walked so fast and took every flight of stairs and it was difficult for me to keep up. She proceeded to ask me multiple detailed questions about these "walks." She was visibly irate by the end of our conversation and when I asked why, she explained that when I first applied for the position, the medical director had asked if they even needed to interview me. She asked why he would even ask that and his response was, "because of her weight." And there it was. Why we would have days where he decided the whole team needed to climb the stairs to the 10th floor of the hospital to make rounds. Bastard.
My experience is nothing. at least I still got the job. This type of behavior goes on every day where people aren't hired and it's for no other reason than their weight. While having a BMI that met the criteria for a diagnosis of severe obesity, I passed the Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) certification, the Certified Case Manager (CCM) exam and received the national Award of Service Excellence. With a BMI meeting criteria for obesity, I passed the Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN) exam and was the recipient of the ASMBS Integrated Health Circle of Excellence award. I am NOT the exception, I am the rule. Individuals with obesity and severe obesity meet and exceed performance expectations every day. All day.
HR folks, are you listening? Lean in really, really close so I can let you in on a secret. It's a good one. FAT CELLS DO NOT NEGATE BRAIN CELLS. You might want to share that information with your team leads, managers. directors and other supervisors who are interviewing INDIVIDUALS AFFECTED BY OBESITY.
How do we change this egregious behavior? We call people out on it every damn time. And remember: