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  • Writer's pictureCarly Onopa

My Health, My Right but Make it Weight-Inclusive

Picture of clipart globe with lettering say "World Health Day" April 7 and the blog post title "My Health, My Right but Make it Weight Inclusive"

The first weekend in April is a celebration of the anniversary of World Health Organization. As a weight-inclusive dietitian I wanted to share a note on this World Health Day 2024. This year’s theme is “My Health, My Right” which the World Health Organization hopes to underscore the importance of individual health empowerment. But my hope is that today we will explore the topic of my health, my right but make it weight-inclusive. 

So what is health empowerment? This is defined as the ability for one to believe that they have the ability to significantly influence personal health outcomes (1). The idea being that the individual is responsible for their own health. As a patient, I value being informed, having access to my information, having the right to choose what medication is right for me to take or even what doctor actually meets my needs. However, I am a cis-gender white woman that works in a medical-adjacent field. I’m also someone who holds a whole lot of other privileged identities that I think make it easier for me to be informed.

I believe in my clients and want to increase their self-efficacy for approaching behavior-change and the way I understand health is very nuanced and highly individualized. Health incorporates personal behaviors but is subject to more than that (think: built environment, access to medical care, access to quality insurance, feeling cared for by providers, and so much more). Let’s explore this a little bit more! 

Social Determinants of Health 

Have you ever wondered what contributes to one’s ability to be “healthy”? Have you ever questioned what your definition of health is? 

I know I have! 

We live in a culture that is overly-fixated on physical health, mostly in the context of body weight and shape, so we tend to stop there. We overemphasize the role of food choices and exercise habits and down play the other factors that go into health. Well we aren’t going to do that today! So what are the social determinants of health? 

Individual Behavior (36%). So yes, individual behavior definitely plays a role in a person’s ability to be healthy. However, individual behavior extends FAR BEYOND nutrition and physical activity. Individual behavior also includes taking care of our mental health, getting quality sleep, handwashing, choosing to abstain from substances. Individual behavior is adaptable but our capacity to address individual behavior is connected to the other social determinants of health. 

Genetics & Biology (22%). While there are some things that are changeable, our genetics and biology are largely unchangeable. Examples of biological factors that can impact health include: height, weight, organ function, and family history for chronic illness. While genetics and biology are clearly not the major determinant of health, this can explain why some people can try to do all the things and still experience chronic disease onset or progression. 

Social Circumstances (24%). A person’s social circumstances significantly impact their ability to be healthy. When someone makes a livable wage, has a job they like, has a sense of belonging, and overall feels safe this increases their capacity to address other health behaviors. When these things are threatened, we don’t feel safe and spend most of our time in survival mode. 

Medical Care (11%). Accessing medical care in the US can be really challenging depending on the quality of your insurance, your proximity to providers who accept your insurance, and provider availability. And that’s all before you really meet your provider!! Then, once you find a provider, there are systemic and provider biases (including racism, sexism, weight bias) at play and cultural competency and language barriers to consider. When we think about access to mental health care, these barriers can become even more significant. Ultimately finding providers that make you feel safe and cared for goes a long way in helping you feel comfortable asking for help and addressing health concerns. 

Physical Environment (7%). Finally, our physical environment also plays a role in our ability to make health conscious decisions. If you are someone who lives in a safe neighborhood, with access to grocery stores and restaurants that fit within your budget, have lit and walkable paths or reliable transportation, these factors work to your advantage to address individual behavior. 

While I believe in the power of being informed, I think it’s important to be informed of all areas that impact health. This is also why, as a weight inclusive provider, I work and advocate for changes that enhance the health of all people. 

If you are looking for support in addressing your relationship with food, movement and body with a provider who understands how nuanced this process is, we’d love to help you! Please contact us here

  1. Jiang F, Liu Y, Hu J, Chen X. Understanding Health Empowerment From the Perspective of Information Processing: Questionnaire Study. J Med Internet Res. 2022 Jan 11;24(1):e27178. doi: 10.2196/27178. PMID: 35014957; PMCID: PMC8790685.

  2. NCHHSTP Social Determinants of Health. (2014). Retrieved March 14, 2016:


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