Chioma Ihekweazu is a recent doctoral graduate from our very own School of Media and Journalism here at UNC. Not only was I thrilled to see a kind peer’s work showcased in my newsfeed, I was also drawn in by her accurate criticism of how we talk about weight–obesity in particular.
She makes the very important point that while it’s not likely to hear patients who are suffering from cancer referred to as “cancerous” or “diseased”, it is quite common, even among respected news sources, to see the descriptor “obese people”. Chioma advises us to avoid playing into shaming language and “put the person before the condition”.
Please read her article here, though a few key takeaways are outlined below:
- Avoid headless imagery (this is a form of shaming)–if needed, use non-stigmatizing stock photos
- Recognize that weight loss is influenced by many factors–such as location, time, and access to food/physical activity
- Do not use value-laden language; use “classes”, based on BMI, defined by CDC and NIH to talk about obesity
- Have an appropriate headline
- Report on facts
Chioma also provides some great examples and resources in her article, to not only help writers and reporters change their words, but also to recognize the flaws in our perspective.