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Old 04-04-2008, 08:42 AM   #1
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New Yale Study On "Weight-ism"

abcnews.com

Study: 'Weight-ism' More Widespread Than Racism

Yale Researchers Find Widespread Discrimination Against Overweight People

By LEE DYE

April 2, 2008 —

It's illegal to discriminate against someone because of race or gender, but our culture condones a bias against people who are overweight.

There are no federal laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of weight, and only Michigan has such a law, according to a new study from Yale University.

As a result, the researchers contend, weight discrimination is spiraling upward, and that's a dangerous trend that could add fuel to the obesity epidemic.

Weight discrimination "occurs in employment settings and daily interpersonal relationships virtually as often as race discrimination, and in some cases even more frequently than age or gender discrimination," the researchers report in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

Overweight women are twice as vulnerable as men, and discrimination strikes much earlier in their lives, the report states.

"This is a form of bias that remains very socially acceptable in our culture," research scientist Rebecca Puhl, lead author of the study, said in a telephone interview.

Puhl, who was trained as a clinical psychologist, and co-author Tatiana Andreyeva, studied data collected from 3,437 adults as part of a national survey conducted in 1995-1996. They have just updated the work in a disturbing paper showing that weight discrimination has accelerated through 2006.

Puhl, who has been studying weight discrimination for nine years, said our culture has made it clear that it's wrong to discriminate against someone because of race, color, creed, gender, age and so forth, but that it's OK to show someone the door because he or she is fat.

"We send a message to citizens in our culture that this is something that is tolerated," she said. "We live in a culture where we obviously place a premium on fitness, and fitness has come to symbolize very important values in our culture, like hard work and discipline and ambition. Unfortunately, if a person is not thin, or is overweight or obese, then they must lack self-discipline, have poor willpower, etc., and as a result they get blamed and stigmatized."

The social current driving this is the obvious fact that no one is responsible for his or her race, or gender or even age. That's a given. But the traditional thinking goes that people should be able to control their weight, so if they're obese, it's their fault.

But that, according to Puhl, is dead wrong.

"We place a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility for body weight," she said. "Our billion-dollar diet industry is founded on that premise. Your weight is modifiable. But that does not reflect the current state of science. We know from hundreds of randomized clinically controlled trials that it's very difficult to sustain weight loss over time with our existing treatment methods."

"That has compelled a number of expert panels, like the National Institutes of Health, to conclude that we really can't expect you to lose more than 10 percent of your body weight and be able to keep that off."

For a 300-pound man, she notes, that's a mere 30 pounds, and he's still overweight, unless he's nearly seven feet tall. Obesity is based on the body mass index (BMI) that is derived from a formula based on weight vs. height. Normal BMI is 18.5 to 24.9. Obesity begins at BMI 30 and ranges up to 40.

Puhl emphasized that she isn't saying people shouldn't try to control their weight. Scores of studies have shown that excess weight contributes to a wide range of diseases, and physical fitness is one of our best bets for fighting everything from heart attacks to aging. But let's face it, if diets worked, we would all be skinny. Many uncontrollable factors contribute to obesity, like genetics and some diseases, yet we still blame the individual.

The heart of the problem, Puhl said, is that obesity brings social stigmatism and stereotyping, and that can lead to depression, discrimination and binge eating, so the problem just gets worse.

But why are we failing so miserably at keeping our weight under control?

"We live in a very toxic food environment," Puhl said. "We make it very easy for people to be unhealthy. Unhealthy foods, or junk foods, are accessible, cheap and engineered to taste very, very good. Healthy foods, like produce, are not as accessible, and are more expensive."

And it's everywhere. A friend recently offered me one of those cookies sold by Girl Scouts in our community. The label on the box said one cookie has four grams of fat. And nobody eats just one Girl Scout cookie. It tastes great, it's cheap and it's for a worthy cause. But that little angel standing at your door is offering you a one-way ticket to obesity.

So grab a handful, and if you get fat, it's your fault, right?

"We take this personal responsibility approach and say well, just exercise more and eat less, but it's much more complicated than that," Puhl said. "If it were that easy, we wouldn't have this epidemic that we have now."

So people who are overweight, regardless of the cause, are blamed for their excesses and it's OK to discriminate against them, at least according to federal law and cultural norms.

Here are some of the findings in Puhl's study:

# Men are not at serious risk of discrimination until their BMI reaches 35, while women begin experiencing an increase in discrimination at BMI 27.

# Moderately obese women with a BMI of 30 to 35 are three times more likely than men in the same weight group to experience weight discrimination.

# Compared to other forms of discrimination in the United States, weight discrimination is the third most prevalent cause of perceived discrimination among women (after gender and age) and the fourth most prevalent form of discrimination among all adults (after gender, age and race.)

Puhl (whose BMI is in the normal range) thinks this is a very big deal. Our culture, she said, sanctions biases against people who are even a little overweight. We blame them for a condition that may result from their genes, or a health problem, and that condemnation in many cases backfires.

And the solution isn't as simple as eat less, exercise more.
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Old 04-04-2008, 08:52 AM   #2
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On the plus side for those blessed with good genes and discipline there is a much better payoff.
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Old 04-04-2008, 10:47 AM   #3
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I think this is true.

But at the same time, I know I have the bias myself in the sense that I have never dated anyone who was overweight nor would I. It isn't just that I'm not attracted to that type of person, but it's that I'm extremely physically active and I like doing active things with other people. So I just have very little in common with somebody who isn't a gym rat and who doesn't structure their life around intense work outs. Every time I slipped and stopped being as active as I'd like, I would be unhappy, put on 15 lbs and start over again.

So yes, it's a bias, but one that I really make no apologies for. There are people who don't get up at 5 am to go to cycle class like me, and I assume they'd have different views, so in that sense the world goes round.
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Old 04-04-2008, 11:13 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by anitram
I think this is true.

But at the same time, I know I have the bias myself in the sense that I have never dated anyone who was overweight nor would I. It isn't just that I'm not attracted to that type of person, but it's that I'm extremely physically active and I like doing active things with other people. So I just have very little in common with somebody who isn't a gym rat and who doesn't structure their life around intense work outs. Every time I slipped and stopped being as active as I'd like, I would be unhappy, put on 15 lbs and start over again.

So yes, it's a bias, but one that I really make no apologies for. There are people who don't get up at 5 am to go to cycle class like me, and I assume they'd have different views, so in that sense the world goes round.
Maybe I am reading you wrong...

...but this reads like you view it as there is only the option of being overweight, or the option of 'structuring one's life around intense workouts'.

It doesn't seem to leave much room for the middle ground
which suits most people better.
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Old 04-04-2008, 11:39 AM   #5
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I think this is the one bias that will only get worse and not better. Society as a whole will progress and eventually lose their biases and hatreds of natural occurences like race, gender, sexuality, etc and those that still hold these hatreds will be the minority bigots. History already shows us this...

But as we progress we also become a more health conscious society. Weight is looked at, and will be looked at for the most part as choice, with either extreme being viewed as unhealthy.

Right now, in the states at least, society as a whole is very uneducated as to what healthy really is. We still have perceptions on both sides of the scale that are just completely wrong.
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Old 04-04-2008, 12:07 PM   #6
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Originally posted by financeguy

It doesn't seem to leave much room for the middle ground
which suits most people better.
No, I meant it more in the sense that most of the stuff I do in my spare time is highly active stuff and generally some people would really enjoy that and others wouldn't. My brother is not overweight, but he's not going to go on a 7 hour hike either, or on a 160 km bike ride. But if that's what you like doing in your spare time, then for me anyway, I like the person I'm with to share in that. By corollary, most overweight people would either be uninterested or be unable to do a lot of this sort of stuff and that's totally fine, but we'd just be incompatible as personalities. And yes, a lot of thin people may not find this to be their cup of tea either, which is fine too.

I guess my point was more that I don't necessarily think weight-ism is always some evil thing. I don't think it should affect your ability to be hired (unless that was as a fitness trainer or something obviously), but at the same time in a personal context, yeah, it may come into play and not necessarily out of malice either.

*I can give you a sort of comparison actually. I have a couple of friends here who are not very religious but they absolutely abstain from alcohol. And they don't date anybody who drinks regularly - the party sort who get drunk Thursday-Sunday, only because that's not what they can or want to do with their weekend evenings, so it would be an understandable strain on the relationship.
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Old 04-04-2008, 12:13 PM   #7
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as much as i admire a perfect physique -- like a certain swimmer who's torso i shall never grow tired of looking at -- in reality, i like men with a bit of the girth on them. nothing that would be considered "overweight," but being exposed to so many men who work like maniacs getting 6-pack abs and obsessing over every detail of their died, a small amount of imperfection says, to me, that this is a much more fun person. that they will have a beer or three, or have an ice cream cone on a hot day, or eat truffles if i buy them for Valentine's Day. i think it's less that being overweight means you like to have fun, but that the intense amount of control it takes to perfect a body says, to me, that this person is probably too uptight to have much fun.
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Old 04-04-2008, 12:20 PM   #8
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Originally posted by Irvine511
i think it's less that being overweight means you like to have fun, but that the intense amount of control it takes to perfect a body says, to me, that this person is probably too uptight to have much fun.
I think that's true. Actually any time where my whole life revolved around upkeep, it was much more stressful than anything. I have somewhat of a compulsive personality so it's hard not to get carried away. But I think that's where balance comes in - I've gone out to the bar twice this week (and it's only Friday), I eat out regularly and I let myself have what I want, but at the same time I keep my gym regimen, and I actually do feel mentally and physically unwell if I'm not going on a daily basis. I find it to be a wonderful stress reliever to go for a run, whereas if I'm sitting in front of a TV I feel like I should be doing something else. It's about finding what works for you.
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Old 04-04-2008, 12:32 PM   #9
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Re: New Yale Study On "Weight-ism"

Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
abcnews.com

Study: 'Weight-ism' More Widespread Than Racism

.
i didn't need a study to know this.

don't those white avant garde liberals at yale have any common sense or better way to spend their time and resources?

sheesh.


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Old 04-04-2008, 01:28 PM   #10
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I think in the US, people have a tendancy to slag people if they're too fat or too thin. There's not much of a happy medium.

These Yale people aren't exactly providing us with any revelations. Obesity in the US doesn't discriminate.
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Old 04-04-2008, 01:33 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrPryck2U
I think in the US, people have a tendancy to slag people if they're too fat or too thin. There's not much of a happy medium.

These Yale people aren't exactly providing us with any revelations. Obesity in the US doesn't discriminate.
No, skinny is generally ok.

Fatties are discriminated against.
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Old 04-04-2008, 02:26 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by diamond


No, skinny is generally ok.

Fatties are discriminated against.
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Unfortunately, where I come from, people (especially the fatties) slag on the skinny folks. How funny is that?

Plus, in all those supermarket rags, they're always getting on the celebs for being too skinny.
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Old 04-04-2008, 02:48 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by diamond


No, skinny is generally ok.

Incorrect sir...
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Old 04-04-2008, 05:12 PM   #14
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Is an extremely thin person going to lose a job or not be hired because they are extremely thin? An average job that does not require physical strength.
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Old 04-04-2008, 05:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
Is an extremely thin person going to lose a job or not be hired because they are extremely thin? An average job that does not require physical strength.
Gina is right on this one.

There also have been studies where when a fat person's car breaks down regardless of gender or nationality vs a skinny person's car breaking down, fatsos are ignored much more then slender folk.

I try and not have to have ppl weigh in when they have a flat tire.



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