I have created this post to provide simple definitions for some of the phrases, words, terms you may find on this website.
Now, more than any other time I can recall, the words we use need to be chosen with sensitivity.
My thanks to the World Obesity Forum and F.E.A.S.T. for guiding me in the right direction – any mistakes or omissions are my own!
Anorexia – AN is an eating disorder where people restrict eating and sometimes over exercise to lose weight. It is a serious mental illness and carries the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Bariatric surgery – Also known as weight loss surgery, WLS is a surgical procedure to help people lose weight. There are different procedures.
Binge Eating Disorder – BED is an eating disorder and recognised mental illness where people frequently feel compelled (for a variety of reasons) to eat large amounts of food.
Body Mass Index – BMI is a measure used to calculate if your weight is in an ‘acceptable’ healthy range. It uses your height and weight as a measure. It is not always accurate and should be used with other criteria, but often is not.
Body Acceptance/ Body positivity – A belief, as well as a movement, which argues you should accept your body as it is and not as society tells you it should be.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder – BDD is a mental health and anxiety disorder when you obsess about imagined defects of flaws in your body which others cannot see, or think are minor.
Body Image – How you perceive your body. It is often influenced by what you believe others think about your body, and how that effects your feelings and thoughts and self-esteem. A negative body image is linked to poor self-esteem and to dieting, which can trigger a eating disorder.
Bulimia – BN is an eating disorder and mental illness where eating is followed by forced vomiting or other methods to get rid of the food in order to not gain weight.
Diabulimia – An eating disorder where Type 1 diabetics restrict their life saving insulin medication in order to control weight gain, or to lose weight.
Diet – From the Greek word ‘dieta’ which literally means ‘what you eat’. It has come to mean a way of eating which restricts food in order to lose weight.
Diet Culture – This term is used to reflect the beliefs surrounding society’s view that thin is always best. It assigns moral values to food and higher weight bodies, is a cause of poor body image and does not acknowledge diversity.
Disordered Eating – When you are overly concerned about your body size this can lead to obsession over what you eat. This can have a serious effect on your life and mental health and lead to the development of an eating disorder.
Eating Disorders: ED’s are “…serious mental illnesses that involve disordered eating behaviour.” – BEAT.
They include anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. All of which have physical consequences as well as mental. The earlier treatment is started the better the chances of recovery. (See Resources page for more information)
Fat – This word is another term for ‘adipose’ tissue. This is where our bodies store excess fat for energy use and other vital bodily functions. However fat has become a term of insult which although it is being reclaimed by the fat acceptance movement. For more insight read my book review, What’s Wrong with Fat?
Fat acceptance – Accepting yours and others bodies as it is now. For some, a social justice movement celebrating diversity of all shapes. Some claim it ‘glorifies’ excess weight, others that it respects our bodies, irrespective of size.
Fat talk – Using negative, critical language with regard to your own and others body size. Fat talk has become so normalised that most don’t realise the harm it does to self-esteem.
Globesity – term used to describe global spread of obesity.
Healthy weight – Subject to argument, but for health care practitioners a BMI range of 18.5 and 24.9 is considered healthy for adults.
Non-communicable disease – Obesity is recognised in some countries as a disease that is not contagious through normal channels.
Obesity – A word which is used to describe a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health. An individual is considered to have obesity when they have a body mass index of over 30. My post, Obesity, expands on this.
Obesity epidemic – A term used by the World Health Organisation, Public Health bodies, etc, to describe the steep increase in the global numbers of people affected by obesity since the 1980’s. My posts The Obesity Epidemic Part 1 and The Obesity Epidemic Part 2 attempt to give an overview.
Obesogenic –A combination of the words obese + environment used to describe an environment where fast food outlets, lack of parks, etc., encourage weight gain, and discourage weight loss.
Orthorexia – A word used to describe people obsessed with eating ‘purely’ or ‘healthily’. It is not always about weight loss but is increasingly being considered a form of eating disorder.
Overweight – According to BMI guidelines ‘overweight’ describes someone above the ‘normal’ range, with the assumption this may will affect their health- not always the case. Some people prefer using the term ‘higher weight’.
People-First Language: Using PFL shows respect for the person by putting them first, not their disease. For example, would you call someone a ‘cancer person’? But we label someone with obesity as ‘’obese’. See my post on PFL for more insight.
Recovery – A term used to describe when a person’s eating disorder is considered under control.
Self-esteem – How you feel about yourself.
Type 2 diabetes: A condition which occurs when the level of sugar in your body is too high and your pancraes cannot deal with it. This can lead to serious medical complications. Excess weight is implicated in the development of this disease.
Weight – avoirdupois weight, a system measuring our mass, e.g. Pounds or kilos.
Weight stigma, fat shaming and fat bias: Discrimination against people on the basis of the size of their body. My post Weight: Shaming, Stigma and Bias details what they call ‘the last acceptable form of discrimination’.