Campaign aims to eliminate stigma against obesity

The Brazilian Society of Endocrinology and Metabology (Sbem) and the Brazilian Association for the Study of Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome (Abeso) have launched the Obesity: Knowledge, Care and Respect! World Obesity Day 2022, commemorated today (4) . The objective is to raise public awareness and eliminate prejudices on the subject.

An Obesity and Fatphobia survey, carried out by the entities in February last year, among 3,621 people, found that 88% of them were overweight, 37% with grade 3 obesity.

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Research has found that eight out of ten obese people have experienced some sort of discomfort due to being overweight. More than half of them say they are victims of discrimination at least once a month. They also revealed that it is in the family environment that the most episodes of weight-related discomfort occur (72%). In second position, shops and trade in general appear (65.5%), followed by situations of discrimination at the doctor (60.4%) and at work (50.7%).

According to the Ministry of Health, overweight affects more than 60% of the Brazilian population, and around 20% of adults are already obese. In the opinion of the president of the Obesity Department of the Sbem, the endocrinologist Maria Edna de Melo, the only way to minimize the impact of the disease on the health of the population is to deepen the knowledge on the subject and to provide adequate care.

For the vice-president of the obesity department at SBEM, Márcio Mancini, before going to school, obese children already have a certain stigma within their own homes, “result of the way people overweight are generally treated”. He said the “chubby joke” is something that people still don’t see as politically incorrect, but as an individual person’s choice.

Discrimination at home occurs, mainly, when the family has an overweight child and a skinny child, who often share the same environment, the same diet, “but the genetics of one are different from the other” , Mancini told the Brazil Agency.

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To help

Maria Edna indicated that prejudices can even make obesity worse, because almost 30% of people who are significantly overweight believe that they are responsible for this condition and do not seek professional help.

“It’s not a matter of will,” said the expert. She pointed out that obesity is a disease that is influenced by several factors such as genetics, lifestyle, stress, the existence of other associated diseases, certain drug treatments, in addition to the type of diet that the nobody follows. “It is not an individual choice, but the consequence of a confluence of factors.”

Márcio Mancini pointed out that the discrimination and stigma that surrounds overweight people ends up being brought to doctors’ surgeries. “Obese women have fewer preventive examinations, such as pap smears, mammograms. They are less monitored.

The doctor pointed out that a more in-depth discussion on this subject was lacking. Doctors also treat the disease of obesity less, focusing on cholesterol, impaired blood sugar, high blood pressure. “But they’re not solving the problem more effectively.”

The survey showed that 81% of obese people have tried to lose weight in some way, with 68% seeking specialist help, whether from doctors, nutritionists or other health specialists, and 32% doing it on their own. Of these, more than half (63%) have invested in the diet and physical activity combo.

“The seemingly innocent suggestion to eat less, exercise more, however, suggests that weight loss is solely related to diet and exercise, ignoring the complexity of the disease that often requires interventions that go beyond lifestyle, through specialized monitoring and the use of appropriate medications,” said endocrinologist Maria Edna.

Of the total number of people who said they had tried to lose weight on their own, 18% said they had used drugs without medical supervision and other risky devices such as meal replacements (shaken), products or drugs sold on the internet, medicinal plants and herbal teas. Maria Edna said these figures reflect the resistance that people still have to seek specialist help.


The doctor said that it was necessary to clarify to the population, first of all, that “we are talking about a disease that, like any other, requires treatment.” She insisted on the importance of making it clear that changing lifestyle means entering a world full of challenges.

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“The control of our appetite takes place in the most primitive areas of our central nervous system. When we are faced with a food, especially those that are hyperappetizing, industrialized, rich in sugar, with innumerable attractions, we are led to an almost automatic act by the body itself. The cortical region of our brain, where we perform the weights, has very little involvement,” explained the doctor.

The survey also revealed that only 13% of people sought help to lose weight in the Unified Health System (SUS), and 62% of this contingent said they did not feel comfortable and welcomed. in the service. The sensation increased as the degree of obesity increased. According to Maria Edna, this draws attention to another disturbing fact, namely the prejudice that obese people feel when seeking medical help. “We need professionals who are better prepared and ready to meet this demand,” said the endocrinologist.

Márcio Mancini pointed out that most medical schools in the country devote very little of the six years of teaching to discussing obesity with students. He also revealed that a large portion of endocrinology medical residencies teach residents about thyroid and pituitary diseases, growth and developmental diseases, but some don’t even have obesity as a major topic. .


A person is diagnosed as obese when their body mass index (BMI) is greater than or equal to 30 kg/m2. The normal range varies between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m2. According to the Ministry of Health, obesity is one of the main risk factors for several non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke and various forms of cancer. .

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World Obesity Day was created by the World Obesity Federation (WOF) with the aim of raising awareness of the disease, encouraging change, improving policies for the management of obese people and share experiences.

The original commemorative date was October 11, but in 2020 it was changed by WOF to March 4. According to WOF, 800 million people worldwide are living with obesity and the medical consequences of the disease will cost countries more than $1 trillion by 2025.

Editing: Maria Claudia

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