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Changing the Face of Obesity in Canada: Network Launches Image Gallery

Canadian Obesity Network

This morning, I am speaking on the issue of weight bias and discrimination at the Journées annuelles de santé publique (Québec), in a session called: Regard sur la discrimination et les préjugés à l’égard du pods.

It is perhaps only fitting, that today also marks the launch of an image gallery by the Canadian Obesity Network, Canada’s national network of obesity researchers, health professionals and other stakeholders.

The image gallery features the first set of a, hopefully growing, collection of non-stereotypical images representing Canadians living with overweight and obesity, which are intended for use by media and others, who report on or talk about obesity.

As noted in a previous post, the stereotypical depiction of ‘headless’ torsos that generally accompany mediate reports on obesity (and unfortunately even find their way into talks by obesity researchers and health professionals), are not only demeaning but very much promote and propagate the negative image of people living with excess weight, a key driver of the widespread weight bias and discrimination that obese people face everyday.

The purpose of the image gallery according to the Network’s website:

“In an effort to reduce pejorative portrayals of overweight and obese persons in media reporting, we have created an Image Gallery that provides a collection of photographs that portray obese individuals in ways that are positive and non-stereotypical. These images provide a fair and non-biased representation of youth and adults who are overweight and obese. Our gallery can help promote accurate coverage of obesity-related topics in news reporting and challenge harmful weight-based stereotypes.”

All of the depicted individuals have most enthusiastically volunteered their images to the Network (see terms of use). They are to be commended as it requires a considerable courage and commitment to step forward for such a cause.

The Network is also grateful to photographer Robert Tinga, who generously gave his time and expertise to these shoots.

My sincere hope is that we will soon start seeing more images like these, that reflect the fact that the obesity discussion is about real people, real families, real Canadians – not just anonymous headless torsos.

Montréal, QC


  1. Congratulations on launching this important and much needed initiative in Canada. I hope that the media will utlize these to promote a more realistic image of living with obesity. Well done.

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  2. It’s a step in the right direction.

    However, if your picture is being used to illustrate an article that’s full of panic, overstatement, blaming and shaming, and that implies (or states) that your body is inherently diseased… well, I’d imagine that would still be kind of humiliating, even if it’s a nice picture.

    It’s not just the pictures that need to change. It’s just as much the reporting and the way results are framed in the press releases, which influences the tone of the reporting. That’s at the very least.

    I, of course, think that a whole change in focus – a change that would affect even the initial the design of studies – is in order.

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  3. This image gallery will prove to be a promising approach, I hope, to address a serious social injustice. It represents an important concept (images that may inspire new directions in social discourse), one which prompts me to wonder if it might be helpful to include portraits of large-girthed “great leaders” from past or present, including beloved/admired historical figures (Elizabeth Cady Stanton comes to mind) whose actions served to increase social justice–a potentially vivid reminder to all of us: body size does not determine or limit human value or potential.

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  4. looking forward to my contribution/pictures to this very important initiative !!

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  5. I am absolutely elated that the Image Gallery has been launched!! Thank you to Linnie Sharma, Thea Moss and all of the beautiful models who participated in the fall photoshoot. Robert Tinga did a fantastic job! Another step closer to reducing weight bias and descrimination. Good Work CON!

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  6. I haven’t been able to get into the gallery. The link just tries connecting and connecting and connecting…and getting nowhere.

    But even without seeing the gallery, there’s one thing that bothers me in the title of your post: the “changing” face. Shouldn’t we be saying the “real” face? Or “a more accurate” face? We are bombarded with headless fatties, images of people of size who look dishevelled, slovenly, stupid, etc. A gallery of real people who just happen to have bodies that do not fit the current weight norm is long overdue.

    I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a peek soon!

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