Our work

Weight stigma awareness

The harms of weight stigma 

The word obesity is loaded with stigma, blame and shame. This stigma is unfair, a barrier to action and harmful.  Weight stigma is associated with considerable physical and mental health consequences, including increased depression and anxiety, disordered eating and eating disorders, and decreased self-esteem. Weight stigma permeates all parts of society including media, healthcare, family, school, and employment. 

We believe that education on the science and reality of obesity, and the harm that stigma does, is needed to reduce weight stigma.  

‘More than meets the eye’ campaign

For EVERY BODY there is more than meets the eye.
#ObesityMoreThanMeetsTheEye

The number of adults living with obesity in Australia has doubled over the past decade. 

More Than Meets the Eye is a new campaign researched and designed to tackle one of the unknown drivers of obesity and psychological harm: weight stigma. 

Sometimes the stigma and shame that people feel is so discouraging that it can affect their mental health and their ability to seek help and support. Judging, blaming and shaming those with obesity doesn’t help anyone, but it does cause harm.

Weight stigma arises from misunderstanding the drivers of obesity and assuming it is only about personal choice. Obesity is complex. It is not just a lifestyle choice – there are also many strong social, biological and environmental drivers that affect people. There is a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Meet Emma – one voice, a shared story

Emma is the first character of our campaign and her story of obesity is one of more than 6 million Australians. We want to tell more stories because when people better understand the science and hear the personal experiences of obesity, they start to think differently about it. They realise that obesity is complex and that making assumptions and casting blame is unfair.

Want to share your story? Or some thoughts?

What did you think about the first campaign video? We want your feedback to help us improve the way we tell these stories. Please share your thoughts below. Or, let us know if you’d like to share your story with us.

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*Images used for the campaign video were taken from the Weight Issues Network (WIN) image library. Thanks to WA Health, World Obesity Federation, Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) and Obesity Canada for making these respectable images available and free to use.

Media guidelines 

Weight stigma is perpetuated by the stereotypical and disrespectful portrayal of people living with obesity in all forms of media.

Very often, media propagates the myth that obesity is simply due to lifestyle choice and demeans people living with obesity, sometimes using dehumanising images. The Obesity Collective, in collaboration with the Weight Issues Network has developed a media guide that assists media outlets in respectfully reporting on people living with obesity.  

If you see a news article or segment that is stigmatising, you can forward these media guidelines to the producers.

Want to transform society with us?

The Obesity Collective is made up of hundreds of individuals from a range of professional, personal and voluntary experiences. Together, we’re transforming the way our society thinks, speaks and acts on obesity. Join today to support anti-stigma campaigns like More Than Meets the Eye and transform society with us.

Obesity – did you know?

Many things can affect your weight, like your genes, biology, psychology and the environments where you work and live. Because there are many causes of obesity, there is not one weight loss approach that works for everyone. Obesity is complex and demands a whole-of-society response.

Obesity Evidence Hub

Credible evidence in one place

The Obesity Evidence Hub’s objective is to identify, analyse and synthesise the evidence on obesity.

The Hub provides key evidence on the trends, impacts, prevention and treatment of obesity in Australia in an easy to read format. It provides a platform for informed policy development in Australia.

The Obesity Evidence Hub was one of the foundational components of the Obesity Collective, and is a joint project with the Food For Health Alliance, Cancer Council Victoria and Bupa Health Foundation.

Systems Action

Systems response to a complex issue

There are strong social, genetic, biological, historical, and environmental influences on obesity. The rise in obesity prevalence over the last 30 years is mainly in response to modern environments that promote or are conducive to unhealthier foods, stress, physical inactivity, and weight gain. 

For some communities, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the historical contexts are especially relevant. For example, the impact of trauma and removing people off their land affects their health, wellbeing and the way they eat for generations and into today.  

Because the development of obesity is so complex, there is no one solution that will reduce the risks and health impacts of obesity for everyone. Australia needs coordinated and sustained action across society, including local communities, business, non-profit organisations, health care, research, and government. Systems level thinking and a broad range of interventions are required such as policy changes, healthier environments, reducing stigma and access to quality care for those that experience the health impacts of obesity. 

The Obesity Collective is committed to drawing attention to the opportunities that exist within our systems at all levels of society to reduce the impact of obesity.  

Framework for Collective Action

Our Umbrella Framework for Action report is currently in development, with a goal of launch by September 2023. The report provides high level summaries of: the current evidence, action, major agreed gaps and opportunities for improvement in addressing obesity and what actions different stakeholders could take to support the systems changes needed for four major areas of the system: weight stigma, bias and discrimination, healthier environments, lifestyle behaviour change and health services and obesity treatment.

The report draws on the Obesity Collective’s key initiatives and expertise: 

    Using this framework, we have been working to break down complex systems concepts into tangible and understandable action areas and options for stakeholders to meaningfully participate. We provide ideas of how you as a community member can take action to help reduce the impacts of obesity in your community. With systems action, everyone has a role to play and there are many opportunities to drive change. The action options were developed to support members from different perspectives:

    • Individuals and families 
    • Healthcare providers 
    • Researchers and academics 
    • Local community 
    • Non-governmental organisations 
    • Employers/businesses 
    • Governments 

    Check out our Actions Hub that puts all these ideas into action.

    The Obesity Activity Map

    The Obesity Activity Map is a database of programs, policies, strategies, research, services and other activities related to obesity, weight stigma, healthy eating, physical activity and medical care.

    Last updated in 2021, the map is a useful tool for individuals, organisations and institutions who are actively involved in prevention, treatment, or advocacy. It is a snapshot of what was happening in Australia at this time and can be used to identify opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration, and innovation across the system. 

    The mapping project commenced in 2018 with its last update occurring in 2021. Researchers searched the internet and identified and mapped over 2,400 activities related to obesity in Australia across prevention, treatment and advocacy. 

    Included activities have the following characteristics: 

    • Had at least one of these focus areas: healthy eating, physical activity, medical care, and reduction of stigma 
    • Was aimed at improving individual behaviours and/or enabling healthier environments 
    • Was across these one or more of these sectors: government, corporate, non-profit, health care, academia 
    • May have a population lens such as age, ethnicity, or socio-cultural background

    The information gathered through the Obesity Activity Map has been foundational in several Obesity Collective projects including the Umbrella Framework for Action Report and the Actions Hub.

    The Umbrella Framework for Action Report and the Actions Hub are due for release on our website by September 2023.

    For more information on the Obesity Activity Map including step-by-step guidance on how to search for activities, check out our Obesity Activity Map guide. 

    The information contained in the Obesity Activity Map dataset, including links to external websites, does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any third-party products or service, nor does it provide medical advice.

    The Obesity Activity Map was last updated in 2021 with no further updates planned at this time due to resourcing. If you or your organisation is interested in assisting with updating the Obesity Activity Map, please contact us

    For further information check out our Terms of Use or contact info@theobesitycollective.org.au

    The Obesity Collective appreciates the creative contribution Aimee Watson has made by providing the images used for the Obesity Activity Map.  

    The Obesity Collective acknowledges the contribution of the New South Wales Government for the development of the Obesity Activity Map. 

    The Obesity Activity Map FAQs

    What is the Obesity Activity Map?

    It is a database of information regarding current projects, programs, research, policies, strategies, services, and medical treatments related to obesity, healthy eating, physical activity and related medical care. It is a tool designed to allow for stakeholders to search activities and initiatives that are aimed at reducing obesity in Australia. 

    Who can use the Obesity Activity Map?

    This tool is primarily targeted at individuals, organisations, and institutions who have an interest in the reduction of obesity and the reduction of stigma for those who are living with obesity. The Obesity Activity Map is not intended for individuals searching for weight loss services or programs. 

    What can I use the Obesity Activity Map for?

    The database contains thousands of entries of activities regarding many areas of obesity research, treatment, prevention and advocacy. It can be used to facilitate dialogue between organisations, to scope out current research occurring in Australia, and to identify more localised activities. The Obesity Activity Map project can also be used to determine what is missing from our current discourse around obesity in Australia, providing a platform for collective innovation. 

    How do I use the Obesity Activity Map?

    The database has been organised by activities and corresponding categories. It is possible to search, filter and sort data by preference. Click here for a comprehensive step by step guide to using the database, including how to edit and add activities. 

    What do the focus areas mean?

    The focus areas in the system activity mapping project are considered to be the areas where barriers around reduction of stigma, prevention, and treatment of obesity are most obvious. The focus ares have been closely considered in the mapping project design: 

    • Behaviour change – healthy eating
    • Behaviour change – physical activity 
    • Healthy food environments 
    • Opportunities for physical activity 
    • Medical treatment / care 
    • Reduction of weight stigma 
    How has the data been categorised?

    We have categorised the data based on the following areas: 

    • Focus Area 
    • Activity Type 
    • Organisation sector 
    • Audience 
    • Population 
    • Age 
    • Location 

      For more information about how we have organised the database, please visit this page.

      How do I download the database?

      Most of the database is freely available, however data can be personalised and downloaded upon request. If required, we may also be able to provide extra information on the existing data (audience, collaborators and funders, geographical accessibility, organisation sectors, cost for user, start/end dates, public emails, contacts, and targeted lists) as well as analytical summary and bespoke reports. If you would like to obtain this data or other targeted bespoke reports, please contact us. 

      Why can’t I access the contact information on the database?

      We can offer the contact information of activities listed in the database upon request. Please contact us. 

      What if I know of a resource that has not been listed?

      The Obesity Activity Map was last updated in 2021 and is not an exhaustive database of all resources available on the internet.

      My organisation has been included. Can we take it down?

      The data contained in the Obesity Activity Map has been collected via publically available sources. If you would prefer your organisation not to be included in the database, we can rectify this. Please contact us. 

      Can I use the Obesity Activity Map if I am seeking medical advice for the treatment of obesity?

      It is not the intention of the Obesity Collective for individuals to use the database as a replacement for medical advice. The database does contain information about localised individual services offered medically and at the retail level for the treatment of obesity. However, many of these services will require a referral from a primary healthcare provider. The information contained in the Obesity Activity Map dataset, including links to external websites, does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation of any third-party products or services, nor does it provide medical advice. 

      Where does the data in the Obesity Activity Map come from?

      The data collected for the system activity mapping project has come primarily through expert consultation, desktop research and rigorous quality checking. To achieve quality checking we have contacted the individuals, organisations, and institutions whom we have included in our system mapping project. However, we cannot be held liable if any information we have collected so far is not entirely up to date. 

      Do I need to sign up to Airtable to access data?

      No, you do not need to sign up to Airtable to access the data. 

      Our statements

      An important part of the Obesity Collectives work is to draw attention to the opportunities that exist to change the way that Australia thinks, acts and speaks about obesity. We do this through developing and sharing position statements and reports that are co-developed, evidence-based and reflect the science and reality of obesity.

      Statements

      Weighing In: Australia’s growing obesity epidemic
      In 2018, we published an evidence-based report that outlined the urgent need for a society wide collective response to the growing rates of obesity in Australia.

      National Call for Action: Clinical guidelines for overweight and obesity
      A call to action for the development of clinical guidelines or framework for healthcare professionals to assess, help and manage people with obesity.

      Obesity and Healthy At Every Size (HAES)
      The Obesity Collective shares most of the core principles of Health at Every Size®. The core difference between the two organisations is that the Obesity Collective acceptthe evidence that obesity is a health and societal issue.

      Obesity as a disease
      We are regularly asked to comment on whether obesity should be classified as a disease and have developed this statement to clarify our current view on this important question.

      Ozempic shortage supplies
      Soaring demand and supply chain issues for a diabetes drug that has also shown significant weight loss benefits has reinforced the need for better healthcare support.

      Reporting on obesity responsibly – a review of English language media guidelines
      A number of organisations have published guidelines identifying stigmatising reporting practices and proposing nonstigmatising alternativesThis report reviews a range of guidelines and identifies the recommendations which are most widely supported.

      Equity and obesity risks
      We acknowledge that there are many complex drivers of obesity including social inequity in Australia.

      Weight management conversations with primary healthcare providers
      This report explores what is happening in primary healthcare consultations in terms of weight management conversations and, whether stigma and bias are relevant, and considerations for action and support.

      Resources

      The current “personal responsibility” narrative is harmful and a barrier to improving the health of many Australians.

      Education is key to Australians having a better understanding of the science of obesity. The Obesity Collective has developed resources that help to educate on the topic of obesity.

      Resources

      Facts of the matter
      We outline four key facts about the reality of obesity.

      Understanding Obesity: what to consider about weight management
      A resource to assist in developing a plan for weight management.

      Recognising health system barriers for supporting patients with obesity
      This guide acknowledges some of the major health system barriers for healthcare professionals and provides some high-level considerations in supporting people living with obesity

      Safe, inclusive and accessible environments for people with obesity
      This quick guide aims to help healthcare professionals consider opportunities to create a more welcoming environment for people with obesity, in addition to other diversity considerations like cultural and gender.

      Considerations for discussing weight and health
      This quick guide aims to help healthcare professionals with important considerations for how to talk about weight and health with adults in a supportive way.

      Stigma-related resources

      Guide to Reporting on Obesity in the Media
      A guide to respectively representing obesity in the media, free from stigmatising images and language.

      Obesity Narrative Guidance
      Here we outline our core values around the narrative surrounding obesity.

      Code of Conduct for discussions about Obesity
      Guiding principles were developed to help maintain a respectful, balanced, and successful conversation around obesity.

      Understanding Obesity: what is obesity and what causes it?
      A brochure to aid in understanding what obesity is, and appreciate the breadth of causes.

      Weight stigma and bias. What is known? A rapid review of evidence
      A 2020 report of the evidence and consequences of persisting weight stigma towards those living with obesity.

      Obesity, health and nutrition: The role your oganisation can play
      A report developed with PwC to explore the ways in which organisations can play their part in addressing the societal challenge of obesity through their business strategy, employee engagement, investor practices, policies and more.

      Changing perceptions to reduce the stigma of obesity
      This research report employed focus groups to explore  key triggers and themes to encourage a reduction in weight stigma in the wider community.

      Insights from our thought leaders

      Obesity is a systems challenge that requires collective engagement with a broad range of experts and community leaders who all have invaluable ideas to share. 

      We have a wonderful mix of community and business leaders, experts and passionate individuals in the Collective and we regularly share their perspectives, work, and research insights through videos. Check out our youtube channel. The Obesity Collective leaders, members and collaborators offer a diverse range of perspectives on obesity as an important health topic, and how systems can adapt to improve the obesity-related health of Australians through the spectrum from prevention to treatment, including the experience of those who live with the condition.  

      View more videos from our experts here.

      This short video compilation, with a range of experts and leaders, summarises why our work is important and what we stand for.

      Check out some more of our amazing speakers in the clips below.

      Weight stigma in healthcareDr Blake Lawrence

      Systems thinking and building better futures – Dr Fiona McKenzie

      Working with Lived Experience in Planning ServicesDr Clare Mullen

      Action in Queensland to support healthy communities Dr Robyn Littlewood 

      Supporting people with obesity in primary care – Dr Teresa Girolamo 

      Creating healthy food environments – Veronica Graham 

      Member Highlight video from Endocrinologist Dr Nick Kormas

      The Lived Experience Voice in Action – Andrew Wilson 

      Research Insights on Weight Stigma in the Media – Dr James Kite

      Raising awareness in the media

      As the peak body for obesity in Australia we are regularly communicating the evidence and our key messages through various platforms including mainstream media. 

      These are opportunities to raise awareness with a broader audience across Australia of:

      • the many drivers of obesity, many outside of individual control
      • how obesity is a societal challenge and the impact on individuals 
      • how the current narrative of personal blame is harmful and a barrier to evidence based action 
      • the need to create healthier environments in Australia 
      • how the the health system needs to better support people who want to manage their weight and health goals

      When working with the media, we ask them to consider how they frame obesity and refer them to our and WIN’s quick media guide. The Shift Guide is also a good resource for media and communications professionals. 

      Check out some of our media coverage to date.