The findings showed that people with obesity experience stigma and discrimination across all aspects of their lives. Three in five South African adults living with obesity have felt judged because of their weight in clothing stores or in social situations and some felt judged in healthcare settings and gyms.

In terms of what influences weight stigma, the federation believed the media have a pivotal role to play. More than half of South African adults think the news media (55%) and popular media (62%), such as TV and magazines, worsen the public’s opinion of people with obesity.

Johanna Ralston, CEO of the World Obesity Federation, said the stigma has physical and mental health consequences, it’s been found to deter people from seeking medical care and can lead to social isolation.

“Weight discrimination is rife across the world. It’s time this ended. People are being blamed for obesity, but decades of public health research show that obesity is complex and there are multiple causes. Stigmatising obesity undermines people’s health and makes it harder to seek support,” Ralston said.

READ MORE: SA trumps USA when it comes to childhood obesity

A separate analysis by the World Obesity Federation has found nearly 10 000 tweets with stigmatising language on social media since January 2018, which include body-shaming and abuse.

Nearly one in three people with obesity have felt judged online because of their weight.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organisation Director-General, said we live in a world where consuming a healthy diet and enjoying an active lifestyle is often hard.

“But governments can address this. Making healthy food easily available in communities, workplaces and schools is essential to protecting people from obesity. Restricting marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children, taxing sugary drinks, and banning industrial trans-fat in foods attacks the main drivers of obesity. Providing more opportunities for active transport and leisure is essential to promoting better health,” he said.

– African News Agency