Practitioners can avoid bias against overweight clients in the following ways, according to University of Akron doctoral students and weight researchers Deb Esty, Sally Diegelman and Claudia Sadler Gerhardt:

  • Don't make assumptions about overweight clients, such as about whether they have an eating disorder or are working toward acceptance of their weight.

  • Display size-friendly artwork or magazines--such as BBW Magazine--in your office or lounge.

  • Have seating in your office that can accommodate larger people. An example is armless chairs.

  • Raise your colleagues' and students' awareness by addressing these issues in formal and informal ways, such as during clinical supervision or in workshops.

  • Ask larger clients about eating behaviors in the same way you would ask a thin or average-sized person.

  • Through self-questioning and introspection, become aware of your own level of prejudice toward overweight people.

  • Educate yourself on issues that affect overweight people, such as the genetic influences of size and the effects of dieting on physical and mental health.

  • Understand that an overweight person's problems are not always a result of their weight and that therapy does not bring thinness. Be aware that resolving life issues also does not necessarily result in weight loss.

--M. DITTMANN

RELATED ARTICLES