Choosing Body Positive Photos for Written Communication

Choosing Body Positive Photos for Written Communication

In health-related articles, images play a very important role in how messages are communicated. The purpose of this article is to show how to include body positive images in written communication.

The research article, Obesity Stigma: Important Considerations for Public Health by Puhl et al, 1 states ‘numerous studies have documented harmful weight-based stereotypes that overweight and obese individuals are lazy, weak-willed, unsuccessful, unintelligent, lack self-discipline, have poor willpower, and are noncompliant with weight-loss treatment. These stereotypes give way to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination’.

Weight stigma has been attributed to high blood pressure, unhealthy weight control and binge eating behaviours, low self-esteem, negative body image and depression among adults, adolescents and children. It is also been related to increased health risks that are normally associated with being obese.2

To create positive messages around health that don’t stigmatise body shapes and sizes consider the four tips below:


Include people with a diversity of body shapes, ethnicities and abilities.



Show people enjoying a wide variety of different nutritious foods. Don’t just show someone eating a bowl of salad leaves.



Include photos reflecting groups of people supporting healthy eating behaviours in environments where we live, learn, work and play.



Show people positively participating in physical activity. Such as going on a family walk, kapa haka or Pacifica dance, rather than a person dressed in lyrca at a gym .



Resources that show positive images

World Obesity Image Bank

This Girl Can

If you would like to learn more about weight stigma in the media:

Learn more about ‘headless fatty’ photos

Read an article from the Lancet about weight stigma and discrimination in the media

Read the World Health Organization document on weight bias and obesity stigma


  1. Puhl, R. M., & Heuer, C. A. (2010). Obesity stigma: important considerations for public health. American journal of public health, 100(6), 1019-28.
  2. Tylka, T. L., Annunziato, R. A., Burgard, D., Daníelsdóttir, S., Shuman, E., Davis, C., & Calogero, R. M. (2014). The weight-inclusive versus weight-normative approach to health: Evaluating the evidence for prioritizing well-being over weight loss. Journal of Obesity2014.


Article written by Chelsea Slobbé, NZRD.

Published 4th March 2019