It has been shown that prejudice against overweight and obesity is the last remaining accepted prejudice in the US. Erroneously, large size is seen as an artifact of laziness or lack of willpower. It is vital to note that we now have an environment where, due to technological advances, it is no longer necessary to exert physical energy to get through the day. Concurrently, we have easy access to liquid sugars (e.g., sodas) and high-fat high-sugar processed food combinations. These empty calories are not available in the natural environment, they are man-made, and they are potentially addictive.
In my practice, I work with people faced with eating disorders including Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. There is frequently an overemphasis placed on body shape and weight with thin seen as the ideal. This focus on physical appearance creates an unhealthy preoccupation and false belief that "if I lose five pounds, ten pounds, 20 more pounds, then I will be happy." This association is promoted in the media.
In reality, three-quarters of our population is overweight and obese. This "thin ideal" is even less reflective and representative of the population. It has been found that overweight is not associated with the same physical co-morbidities as obesity: this means that being overweight doesn't place you at increased risk for high blood pressure and Type II Diabetes and the metabolic syndrome.
It is important to examine unhealthy relationships with substances, including foods. Because food is inexpensive and accessible, it can be used as an unhealthy tool to manage negative emotions and temporarily fill an emptiness. Still, shame and guilt does not promote a transforming, sustained new healthy relationship with food. "Should" statements (e.g., I should be able to not eat desserts) leads to frustration and resentment. Instead, we need to promote a movement that accepts all body shapes and sizes. The emergence of a plus-size fashion industry is a step in that direction.
Further, we need to:
1) De-emphasize focus on body shape and weight
2) Reinforce other areas of expression by women such as sports, science, work
3) Promote healthy management of emotional states
4) Reduce shame associated with overweight and obesity
5) Encourage physical activity, including utilitarian exercise (e.g., walking to work), not for weight loss but for physical health and strength and associated endorphin release