Research Summary: Why Bariatric Weighted Suits May Advance the Scientific Study of Weight Stigma
18th February 2019
Summary of a recent article by Dr Claire Mills and Dr Emily Ryall, published by Obesity: A research journal
Considering the importance of improving understanding of the impact of excess body fat, this paper aimed to identify how the use of bariatric weight suits can bridge the gap of understanding between those in exercise and health professions and the individuals with whom they work. This information could then be used to improve support given to these individuals.
The authors identified the importance of using the term ‘bariatric weight suit’ or BWS rather than ‘fat suit’ in industry and practice in order to neutralise the terminology used within this area. Use of the term ‘fat’ is under debate in contemporary discourse so the use of a more neutral term was preferred.
There has been criticism of the use of BWS however the authors rejected these claims as they identified the use of BWS should be used to develop openness and understanding and therefore decrease the likelihood of oppression. They identified the importance of avoiding value judgements about body weight devaluing an individual as a human being- aiming to separate the person from their health status. Arguably, the stigmatization of particular populations is caused by wider cultural issues related to respect for others that need to be addressed and not by BWS as Meadows et al. propose.
Noting the above, the substantive concern they had in relation to the letter by Meadows et al. is that the uses of BWS are methodologically flawed. Of the eight papers that were cited, only one paper used BWS. Within this paper, the writers did not report any specific methodological issues when using BWS but merely acknowledged that wearing BWS elicited psychological and behavioural reactions. BWS can provide personal trainers, physical education teachers, coaches, and exercise and health professionals with an ability to recognize the physical limitations of those they work with and, as such, provide better and more empathetic support. This experience gave participants an instant phenomenological perspective that would not otherwise have been obtained.
Although BWS provide only a partial and limited experience of people with obesity, they argue that its use can be valuable, particularly in providing wearers with a specific physiological and biomechanical experience that may lead to more suitable interventions and advice as health practitioners, especially around the promotion of exercise and physical activity.
For the full article head here