Reframing the conversation around obesity

Authors: Jece Shunmugam
  • Reading time: 5 min.
  • Posted on: March 3, 2021

When the World Obesity Federation approached us to build a  campaign for World Obesity Day, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. 

It was hard to think of many campaigns that adequately shifted the conversation around obesity, effectively reframing it as a disease whilst eliciting empathy for those it affects. Of those we could think of, the focus was on the role of the individual and in doing so, often entrenched existing preconceptions or bias that obesity was simply caused by unhealthy eating habits. 

After many workshops with the amazing team at WOF, we came to realise why the focus should be around the collective. Underpinning this was an acute understanding of the impact of Covid-19, and the stark statistic that a majority of those who died were living with obesity. We knew then that something which had profoundly impacted the collective would need to focus on the collective too. 


And that’s how the campaign ‘Every Body Needs Everybody’ was born. 

The slogan aims to capture all of these sentiments at once, whilst being a strong call-to-action that encourages people not simply to get involved with World Obesity Day, but to become informed and raise awareness of obesity and its related issues more generally. 

At the same time, we were cognisant that the campaign also encompassed the diversity of the many root causes of obesity and the actions to address it at an individual, societal and structural level. As a basis for understanding obesity, WOF created the Roots, which explain the many causes that lead to obesity, including genetics, biology, marketing, stigma and food. 

Because of this, and because of the various nuances in different cultures, regions, and sectors, we ensured the core messaging was both broad and specific. For instance, in the Caribbean and parts of Africa, people who are overweight are often viewed positively due to an association with happiness and wealth, whereas in Western countries, people who are overweight or live with obesity often face stigma and bias known as fatphobia. For the latter, we wanted to drive understanding and equality, but for the former, driving awareness of obesity as a disease was the main priority. Changing perceptions can be the driving force behind systemic and societal change, and can lead to other actions that improve the lives of those living with obesity such as policy change, better nutrition for all, and improvements to education. 


Next, we needed to bridge the campaign messaging with the creative imagery. Our wonderful creative team, which included Margit Mulder, Joel Harvey, Matthew Hyndman, and from the Shape History collective, Tania Eleonora, explored the idea of using Matisse-style illustrations of bodies.

The result was imagery that is uplifting, inspiring but ultimately highlights the need for unity. The paper-cut style of the illustrations also gave us an opportunity to express the body shapes of every body, whilst also avoiding being so literal as to exclude people.   

We then explored different ways of using the bodies, from abstract to more realistic shapes, and ended up somewhere in between. We wanted the campaign imagery to be somewhat identifiable, and for anyone to understand the visuals. At the same time, we wanted people to look at the visuals, feel included and be able to interpret it as they’d like: someone happy, someone jumping for joy, someone striving for change. At the heart of the strategic and creative process was a concerted focus on making the campaign as human-oriented as possible, giving a personal and empathetic touch for those affected by or living with obesity. 

And so, as we eagerly await World Obesity Day 2021, we look forward to seeing how people engage with the content across various cultures, regions and sectors. Most importantly, we hope the #EveryBodyNeedsEverybody campaign helps to reframe the conversation – and bring about real change for the millions of people living with or affected by obesity.

Get involved at and show your support by using the #EveryBodyNeedsEverybody hashtag.