Facebook Pixel

Obesity: Last Socially Accepted Area of Discrimination?

By HERWriter Guide
Rate This
is it still socially acceptable to discriminate against the obese Hemera/Thinkstock

Michigan is the only state where it's illegal to discriminate against a person because of their weight. Everywhere else, a person can be fired (or not hired) due to their excess weight, although weight discrimination can be seen on persons of any weight, including very slim people.

They can be refused housing or other opportunities that others don't think twice about. And there is new evidence that this discrimination may hinder overweight people from getting the help they need to live healthier lives.

A recent poll of more than 1100 people, conducted by Reuters showed that more than 60 percent of respondent believe that obesity is caused by personal choice and nearly 20 percent blame processed foods and fast food. Almost half think that obese people should be charged more for insurance.

So with all this information, it would appear that slimmer people would be the ones doing the discrimination. But since the majority of Americans are overweight, are they discriminating against themselves?

According to researchers at Imperial College London and Harvard University about 68 percent of Americans are overweight or obese so at least two-thirds of these opinions are coming from those who are overweight themselves.

However, many Americans do not consider themselves overweight, even though they are, so this may be why the respondents of the polls replied the way they did.

And according to Lynn McAfee, the director of medical advocacy for the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination who was interviewed about the Reuters poll, "... studies show that fat people are even more prejudiced against fat people than thin people are."

Reuters also found that doctor's discriminate, with assumptions that overweight people may not take care of themselves as well as people of a healthy weight, including not taking their medications as required. Doctors also tend to spend less time with obese patients and ironically don't counsel them about living more healthy lives.

Therefore obese people may not be given the opportunities to get healthier that they need.

Add a Comment2 Comments

I don't know about the polls that were referenced in this article but weight stigma and discrimination, especially in the media, are proven in the following studies. The study Obesity in the News: Do Photographic Images of Obese Persons Influence Antifat Attitudes? indicated that participants who viewed the negative photographs expressed more negative attitudes toward obese people than did those who viewed the positive photographs. Implications of these findings for the media are discussed, with emphasis on increasing awareness of weight bias in health communication and journalistic news reporting.

The study Weight Stigma: Health Implications relates that weight stigma:
• Compromises psychological well-being
• Is NOT an effective motivator for lifestyle changes
• Affects healthcare

The study The Stigmas of Obesity: Does Perceived Weight Discrimination Affect Identity and Physical Health? reveals that perceived weight discrimination is found to be harmful, increasing the health risks of obesity associated with functional disability and, to a lesser degree, self-rated health.

If you want the truth about fat discrimination, contact NAAFA (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance) for the real scoop from the people that are fighting it every day.

May 22, 2012 - 8:58pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to radfatty)

Are obese people discriminated against? Duh!!!! Food addiction is is quickly becoming the number one preventable cause of disease in the US. We as a society have to address this issue seriously and place the cost of individual action on those responsible for them with consumption based taxes of the food individuals consume.  It is simple economics when you don't pay the full costs of your actions you will likely continue your bad behavior.  Changes we make now might save our children. I actually wonder, if we were more vocal about this issue instead of less would the burden of obesity on our society be so high?

May 26, 2012 - 8:37pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


Get Email Updates

Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!