Increasingly cheap, easily available junk food combined with increasingly sedentary lifestyles have resulted in obesity increasing around the world in the last few decades.
As obesity rates have risen in the US, weight discrimination has increased by 66 percent in the past decade.
Polls conducted in the US show that overweight people are believed to be lazy, undisciplined, dishonest and unintelligent.
More than 60 percent of the general US population think it’s OK to make derogatory remarks about a person’s weight.
How overweight people are discriminated against
In spite of the growing global problem of obesity, fat people are discriminated against in many areas of their lives.
Discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age and other characteristics is illegal in many countries, but it is not illegal to discriminate against people based on their weight.
This means that if an employer doesn’t want to hire overweight people or a landlord only rents property to thin people, there are no consequences.
An overweight defendant in a lawsuit is more likely to get a guilty verdict than a thin person.
In the US, weight stigma exists even in the healthcare sector. Negative attitudes about people with excess weight have been reported by doctors, nurses, dietitians, psychologists and medical students.
These negative attitudes are so ingrained in society that children as young as four have been found to be reluctant to make friends with an overweight child.
Fat stigma does not only hurt emotionally and psychologically, increasing the risk of depression and low self-esteem, it also contributes to the problem of obesity itself.
Rather than motivating people to lose weight, weight discrimination or shaming increases the risk of obesity.
Misconceptions about being thin versus being fat
Society views thinness as a symbol of hard work, self-discipline and willpower. People who are overweight are presumed to be lacking in these values.
The general public holds widespread inaccurate views that minimize the complexities of obesity and how difficult it is to reverse the condition. This includes that it is a temporary condition that is within the person’s control. In a Reuters online poll, 61 percent of respondents blamed obesity purely on “personal choices about eating and exercise”.
These misconceptions flourish in spite of five decades of scientific research documenting the negative consequences of weight stigma and the fact that many causes of obesity are beyond the individual’s control. Genetics, metabolism, economic status, upbringing and many other factors play a role in obesity.
Anyone with a history of dieting knows it’s extremely difficult to lose weight and even more difficult to keep it off. Weight stigma is so pervasive that research shows it remains even after someone has lost a significant amount of weight.
Source: Capricorn Review