Why We Need to Stop Labeling Behaviors Influencing a Person’s Weight Ideal or Healthy

Ward, Madeline
AMA Journal of Ethics

This commentary argues that financial incentives for employees who meet body mass index requirements reinforce healthism, a false and oppressive ideology. Healthism is the view that personal health is the vehicle of well-being and that health is achieved by taking personal responsibility for habit modification. Healthist views about body shape and body weight enforce oppressive norms and can lead to pernicious harms, especially to members of vulnerable groups. Overall, this article argues that persons and organizations ought not to label behaviors that influence body shape and weight in normative terms, such as “ideal” or “healthy.”