Thursday, May 18, 2006

Self-hate Weight

In this week's edition of the journal Obesity, there's a very sad article that quantifies just how pervasive the anti-fat bias in America really is.

It has long been established that obese people are stigmatized in education, employment and heath care. As well, it seems that the negative attitudes and stereotypes associated with obesity are acceptable in society given that we still regularly see them as the butt of jokes on television and in Hollywood.

It may surprise some readers here to learn that even obese people discriminate against the obese. In this study 37% of obese respondents reported that they preferred thin people, 27% of obese respondents said that thin people were more motivated and 27% of obese respondents said fat people were lazier.

This study also looked at "Personal trade-off items", meaning what would you be willing to give up or do in order to not be obese.

Of healthy weight individuals, 18% would rather give up 10 years of their lives than be obese, 36% would rather be divorced than be obese, 27% would rather be infertile than be obese, 21% would rather be severely depressed than be obese, 20% would rather be an alcoholic than be obese, 7% would rather lose a limb than be obese and 5% would rather be blind than be obese.

Now while those numbers are in and of themselves shocking, they become more shocking when you consider how the authors got their data. This study was funding and publicized by the Rudd Institute, an organization whose mission it is to address stigmatization and discrimination of obese individuals. The over 4000 respondents likely heard of the study either from the Rudd Institute's website, attending a presentation on weight sitigma given by one of the authors, or reading a news article on stigma that made reference to the website where the study's data were collected. Therefore the people who responded with such negative attitudes and stereotypes towards obesity were actually the people in society who might be expected to have the least amount of anti-fat bias.

Like the Rudd Institute says, "See the person, not the pounds". Clearly as a society, we still have a long way to go.