Lesbians Require Sensitivity When Dealing With Weight Issues

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A new study has shown that lesbians require sensitivity when dealing with weight issues. Researchers have discovered that overweight lesbians that have identified heart risks, were enthusiastic to take part in culturally sensitive programs to improve their health, but very discontent with health care professionals who focused entirely on their body mass index (BMI).

Lead author Professor Susan J Roberts from the Northeastern University School of Nursing in Boston believes that barriers to weight loss included feeling self conscious about exercising with normal weight people and lack of gym facilities that provide joint membership, or a comfortable welcoming environment, for same-sex couples.

The study showed homophobia and social exclusion could lead to stress, anxiety and depression, creating barriers to changing unhealthy behavior. 75% of the women who took part in the study were overweight and all of them had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

“The women felt angry that health care professionals focused on lowering their BMI, rather than improving their general health and many had been told to lose weight without any advice or support on the best way to do it,” says Roberts.

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“Barriers to weight loss included feeling self-conscious about exercising with normal-weight people and lack of gym facilities that provide joint membership, or a comfortable welcoming environment, for same-sex couples.”

Interestingly, it appeared that young lesbians had the same attitudes toward weight and appearance as heterosexual women, however, women over 40 felt that lesbians were more likely to reject the social norms for women’s appearance, body type and weight. “I think that older lesbians have different perspectives around weight and body changing and accept that that happens.”

One lesbian woman said, “We’re more apt to accept each other for who and what we are, so if we gain a little weight so what? In the male-female community it’s more of a threat.”

A subject that was constantly brought to attention was that being a lesbian added to general work and life stress. One participant said, “You are always under stress and then you choose a lifestyle which is unacceptable... it just adds to it.”

Roberts concluded,”This study revealed that the anxiety and depression these women felt was related to being part of a stigmatized minority whose needs are often invisible to healthcare providers.”

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