Weight stigma and the Serenity Prayer

“Grant me serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

What I most like about the Serenity Prayer is that almost every quandary in life will be resolved by one of its three legs. But I’ve been thinking about one recently for which I need all three.

The general topic is obesity, but the specific trigger is ED advocates’ repeated drumbeat that ending weight stigma is an important and required development.  [BEDA | Rudd Center | Weight Stigma Conference, among others]

At first I objected outright, based on the implication that other people have to change before obese people can be OK. But by applying the SP’s three precepts, I’m softening.

Here’s the first of three discussions on this question, roughly centered on "the wisdom to know the difference." [Part 2 is "the courage to change." Part 3 is about acceptance.]

I continue to maintain that any improvement in my life that’s based on what other people do is illusory, because if others have to act as I wish before I am OK, they control my wellbeing. And that is untenable.

At first, I thought this was an acceptance issue — I can’t change that other people will, on occasion, will be bad/mean/ill-informed, so my only course is to go about making my life the best that I can, in spite of them.

But I now see that this is simply unwise, as in not having “the wisdom to know the difference.” What other people think translates into reality all over the world. No one should be discriminated against, for any reason, and if a prevailing attitude fosters injustice, then it needs to change. That’s the lesson of the civil rights movement.

Just to acknowledge: Some ideologues would argue that body size is a choice, and therefore differs from, say, skin color, ethnicity, handicap, or height. I’d argue that the difference is slim to none: Heredity clearly contributes to body size.

Is it the same? No. But does heredity matter? Obviously.

So yes, I agree that with advocates that weight stigma has to go.

However, I still wonder if the vocal anti-stigma forces aren’t as skewed as I have been, in a different direction. Does talking so much about what other people think obscure the part that can be changed?


Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
make investments in employee wellbeing that pay off in corporate success.
Video | Services | Clients