Professor says people are healthy at any size

A recent presentation, ‘Addressing Weight Stigma, Diet Culture, and Eating Disorders in Neurodiverse Clients,’ expressed support for Health at Every Size® and exploring gender identity.

The presenter said that she felt 'so angry' over requirements that patients lose weight for 'gender-affirming surgery.'

A University of Denver (DU) professor’s recent presentation expressed support for Health at Every Size® (HAES) and exploring gender identity. 

“There is absolutely a connection between weight and health,” Erin Harrop with DU’s Graduate School of Social Work said in her presentation, “Addressing Weight Stigma, Diet Culture, and Eating Disorders in Neurodiverse Clients.” 

“But the argument I’m going to make for you today is that [the] connection between weight and health may be less attributable to the actual adipose tissue in people’s bodies and more attributable to the stigma of that adipose tissue from other folks,” she continued. 

Harrop specializes in “eating disorders,” “weight stigma,” and “medical social work,” according to her faculty biography. Her work relies on an “intersectional social-justice-informed, fat liberation, and [HAES] lens.” 

HAES is an approach to healthcare articulated by the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH). After the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued new recommendations for treating childhood obesity, ASDAH tweeted that they are “dripping with fatphobia, racism, [and] healthism.”

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In a statement and petition, ASDAH wrote that AAP “claim[s] to incorporate ‘non-stigmatising care’ and the social determinants of health to improve health equity.” 

“There is no non-stigmatizing care in the name of obesity prevention or treatment,” ASDAH argued, elsewhere referring to the condition as “ob*sity.” 

During one “plug” for HAES, Harrop acknowledged its criticisms, including accusations of HAES “overly focusing on health,” “moralizing health,” and “having a white focus.” 

Harrop named symptoms of weight stigma in her presentation, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. These are symptoms that, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, are actually attributable to excess fat cells, “the mechanical stress of carrying extra pounds,” and other consequences of being overweight. 

[RELATED: University claims being ‘fat’ is not unhealthy. The science says otherwise.]

Throughout the presentation, Harrop discussed gender identity. During the Q&A session, for example, a participant asked about a neurodiverse and transgender client who wanted top surgery but had difficulty finding a surgeon who would not require her to lose weight. 

Harrop said that she felt “so angry” over such requirements for “gender-affirming surgery.” 

Earlier in the presentation, she said that neurodiverse clients can make peace with their bodies by exploring their identities, including their gender identities.

The presentation also suggested “[p]referred terms’’ that would replace “[s]tigmatized/loaded terms.” Rather than use terms such as “[o]verweight” or “[n]ormal weight,” one slide suggests using “[p]erson of size” or “[p]erson of thin privilege.” 

The slide advises that, if one must use the terms “overweight/obese/normal,” he or she should also qualify the phrase with “according to current [body mass index (BMI)] standards.” 

The presentation is available on the Holistic Child and Family Practice channel on YouTube.

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.