How Weight Stigma Hurts Your PCOS


Most people don’t realize that weight stigma hurts your PCOS. Individuals with PCOS experience weight stigma on many different levels. Weight stigma is everywhere in the PCOS population from our society in general that praises thinness to health care providers. families, and even people with PCOS themselves.

PCOS is a complex and often misunderstood medical condition that affects many women worldwide. While its physical symptoms are well-documented, there’s an often overlooked and insidious aspect that exacerbates PCOS: weight stigma.

Weight stigma, or bias, is a prevalent issue that permeates various aspects of society, from healthcare to personal relationships. This blog post will explore what weight stigma is, how it impacts individuals with PCOS, both mentally and physically, and what you can do to combat it.

What is Weight Stigma?

Weight stigma can be described as the negative attitudes and beliefs directed at individuals because of their weight. In essence, it assumes that a thinner body is inherently healthier and better. This bias extends beyond mere teasing; it infiltrates every facet of a person’s life, affecting their mental and physical health.

Most people think that weight stigma is making fun of people in bigger bodies or not having larger seats on airplanes. What they don’t realize is that weight stigma is more than hurting other’s feelings and making them feel bad. Weight stigma can affect mental health, but it can also affect the victim’s physical health as well. Not only does it not work, but weight stigma hurts your PCOS, making it worse.

Examples of Weight Stigma in PCOS

Fertility Treatments: One stark example is when individuals with PCOS are denied fertility treatments based on their BMI, a practice that is not only unfounded but also unjust.

Unrelated Health Issues: Another issue is visiting a healthcare provider for an unrelated ailment, only to be told to lose weight as a solution.

Weight-Centric Healthcare: Patients are sometimes told by healthcare providers that they can’t do anything more to help their PCOS unless they lose weight, despite the fact that there are numerous treatment options that can be effective regardless of a person’s size.

Inappropriate Medical Equipment: Weight stigma can also be shown by medical equipment such as chairs that are not size inclusive or too small blood pressure cuffs that when used on bigger people, will give inaccurate results.

How Weight Stigma Hurts Your PCOS: Mental Health

Another way that weight stigma hurts your PCOS is by affecting your mental health. The psychological toll of weight stigma can be profound, leaving lasting emotional scars. This bias can lead to:

Poor body image and dissatisfaction with one’s appearance.

Low self-esteem, reduced self-confidence, feelings of worthlessness, and loneliness.

An increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other psychological disorders.

Moreover, these past experiences with weight stigma can amplify the stressors an individual faces, leading to an accumulation of chronic stressors known as an allostatic load. This unseen burden can worsen both psychological and physical health conditions.

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How Weight Stigma Hurts Your PCOS: Physical Health

Weight stigma doesn’t just affect mental health; it also has physical consequences. Individuals subjected to weight discrimination may:

Avoid seeking medical care, which can lead to untreated and worsening health issues.

Experience worsened health conditions, as weight stigma is correlated with higher cortisol, oxidative stress, high blood pressure, and elevated inflammation levels.

Internalized Weight Stigma

What’s often heartbreaking is that individuals who experience weight stigma sometimes internalize these negative beliefs, especially concerning themselves. These internalized biases manifest as self-loathing, body hatred, and shame. They may believe that they are not good enough, unlovable, or ugly due to their size. This self-blame and self-judgment further perpetuate the cycle of weight stigma.

What You Can Do to Prevent Weight Stigma

Recognize Your Own Stigma: Start by acknowledging any weight stigma within yourself. Be mindful of the biases you might hold, both consciously and unconsciously.

Remove Harmful Labels: Challenge and avoid using terms like “overweight” and “obese.” These labels are not only scientifically questionable but also contribute to the perpetuation of weight stigma. Recognize that BMI is a flawed and unreliable tool for assessing health, and it is not a disease in itself.

The International Evidence-Based PCOS guidelines acknowledge that weight stigma is pervasive in the PCOS community and that patients should be asked permission to be weighed.

The PCOS guidelines addressed weight stigmatizing language and have chosen to avoid the use of the terms o*erweight, o*ese or o*esity. Instead, the PCOS guidelines used more inclusive terms like higher weight (although there is still a big emphasis on BMI).

weight bias in pcos

Promote Health, Not Weight: Shift the focus from weight to overall health. Encourage positive, sustainable lifestyle changes and health practices, irrespective of body size. Remember that health is a multifaceted concept that encompasses mental and physical well-being. At the PCOS Nutrition Center, we believe that everyone deserves respectful care. We use use weight neutral approach that doesn’t focus on weight loss to improve your PCOS. If you are a health care provider, consider my weight inclusive Online PCOS Training Course.

In conclusion, weight stigma hurts your PCOS in many ways. By addressing the issue of weight stigma for PCOS is essential for fostering a more supportive and empathetic environment for those affected. By recognizing and challenging our biases, as well as advocating for health-centered care rather than weight-centric approaches, we can create a more inclusive and compassionate world where individuals with PCOS can thrive. Let’s break the chains of bias and build a healthier future for all.

pcos dietitian angela grassiAngela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN is the founder of The PCOS Nutrition Center where she provides evidence-based nutrition information and coaching to women with PCOS. Angela is the author of several books on PCOS including PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, The PCOS Workbook: Your Guide to Complete Physical and Emotional Health, and The PCOS Nutrition Center Cookbook Recognized by Today’s Dietitian as one of the Top 10 Incredible Dietitian’s making a difference in 2014, Angela is the past recipient for The Outstanding Nutrition Entrepreneur Award, The Award in Excellence in Practice in Women’s Health and The Award for Excellence in Graduate Research, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Having PCOS herself, Angela has been dedicated to advocacy, education, and research of the syndrome.


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