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Some Overweight People Are Calling For a Law to Protect Them

Overt racism is not tolerated in most places, but fatism is flourishing in our society. Many overweight people say that the normal rules of decency and common courtesy don't seem to apply to them, and they're trying to organize a new rights movement.

In a news article yesterday, the BBC recounted the plight of an overweight train passenger who was beaten up by another commuter for taking up two seats. The aggressor yelled "you big fat pig" before she kicked the victim in the stomach. In addition to suffering verbal and physical abuse, overweight people who are speaking out say they are victims of systemic discrimination. For example, many airline companies in the US now charge larger passengers for two seats. Such a policy is considered illegal discrimination in Canada, where there is a one-person-one-fare law. The US has no such rule, nor is there a federal law forbidding employers from firing people because of their weight. (Michigan is alone in prohibiting employers from firing people for being overweight.)

Last year, a study from Yale revealed that weight discrimination is tolerated because many believe that people have control over their size. The truth is more complicated. Economics, health issues like type 2 diabetes, and genetics can affect a person's weight.


The study also revealed that overweight women are twice as vulnerable to discrimination than overweight men. If you want to find out if you have implicit biases against overweight people take this quiz developed by Harvard researchers. You might be surprised by the results.

Would you like to see a federal anti-weight discrimination law?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Kariboo21 Kariboo21 7 years
No tidal wave your not a miracle. Notice I said GAD and Major Depressive Disorder, as well as numerous surgeries and health complications. . By the way I notice that the only thing that caught your attention was the GAD and not the fact that I lost 70 lbs. Funny huh, while I am no longer morbidly obese, because I am still overweight, I am not good enough to participate in this society and am worthless. Maybe you have only a mild case of it and don't understand the the extreme end where it's a miracle that you can make yourself leave the house everyday. Add to that the extreme night terrors I had as a child and the suicidal thoughts that I can remember experiencing as a young child and maybe you would have some more understanding. I don't mean to belittle your life or your experiences you have had, but you have belittled mine. I am proud about how well I am able to function and live. I had friends that would get depressed and refuse to leave their rooms for weeks at a time, while I would go to concerts and movies, and hikes in the country. I keep going no matter what happens to me and I always will. I am not a lazy person, and I never will be. That is all I was trying to convey. Statistics do not cover everyone, or even anyone. I was just trying to convey the things that people can have to fight against in weight loss. Not to mention all the other things that can happen. I don't think there should be any special legislation for overweight people, I just think that if people had the empathy to put themselves in other people's shoes, they wouldn't be so judgemental and rude.
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
I'm thin and have GAD. Guess I'm a miracle.
Kariboo21 Kariboo21 7 years
I am so tired of people taking one look at me and calling me lazy. I probably work harder than any of them. I rarely eat out, and I have a German Shepherd that is very energetic so I have to take him for long walks daily. Yet according to everyone here I should be thin. I'm not. Not only are Both of my parents overweight, but all of my aunts and uncles too. I went on the Atkins diet and lost 70 lbs, and have kept it off to this day, but then it turns out that the diet damaged my body and now I'm diabetic. With all the blood sugar monitoring and the endless pills, I was happier when I WAS morbidly obese. Not only that, but I have had 2 surgery's on my leg in a year (neither of which by the way had anything to do with my weight) and have had to be immobile for long lengths of time. I had gained a few pounds back when I was immobile, I guess it was because I was lazy? Of course I lost those lbs, but it took 2 months of dieting and exercise. I am not morbidly obese anymore, but I am still overweight, so I must be lazy. I feel bad enough about myself most of the time without having to listen to other people say things bad about me. Oh yeah I forgot to mention that I also suffer from Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, both of which can not only cause you to eat more, but the medications of which are PROVEN to cause weight gain. They are also recently saying that the lack or certain hormones and endorphins that go hand in hand with these disorders also cause weight gain. People need to realize that there is never only one reason you are overweight, it is a combination of factors. This can make it almost impossible to lose weight sometimes.
countchocula countchocula 7 years
While I think the bus situation is despicable and a display of the worst kinds of humans, I don't think we need a law to protect overweight people. Sadly, people react negatively towards those who do not fit the social norm but how is a law going to change that? Okay, so you make a law barring people from being mean to the overweight... can we make a law prohibiting people from harassing those with amputations or craniofacial anomalies? I was born with a cleft lip so can I go and sue every kid who ever verbally or physically abused me in grade school? I don't want to and I was harassed for circumstances beyond my control. Most overweight people are the way they are because of lifestyle choices. I understand the argument about hypothyroidism because my mom and 4 of her sisters have it and they're all between 15 and 30 pounds overweight.... but it's just to the point of looking chunky and they fit very comfortably in airplane seats... and let me tell you that they put up a fight to keep it that way. I see four women with hypothyroidism who eat healthy and exercise in order to keep from gaining too much weight and it really is a struggle for them! There are options for people with health problems and a tendency towards weight gain so they can manage their weight. The doctor thinks I'm headed in the same direction and, in order to stay slim, I've developed good eating habits (thanks to my mom) and have hour-long workout sessions at least 3 times a week and walk to class instead of taking the on-campus shuttle. I don't judge people for not fitting into a size 6; we're all different. But I have little sympathy for people who are morbidly obese and chose to keep eating 10,000 calories a day. They should be able to see their physical state, know it's attributed to a food addiction and get help. Laws giving the overweight extra free seats in a plane and so on are not going to help this country's problem with an ever-growing overweight population; it will only make the population more complacent. Let's instead encourage people to make the right lifestyle choices through public education about healthy eating and exercise... and of course, teach kids that different isn't necessarily bad and that bullying is never an option. Good education in childhood will carry over into adulthood.
Mme-Hart Mme-Hart 7 years
For the people who say they work out and eat right and are still overweight...there's a lie in there somewhere. I'm sorry that's blunt but I'm not sorry for pointing out the truth. Weight, for 98% of the population, is a simple mathematical equation: calories in MUST equal calories put out for maintenance. Calories in MUST be lesser than calories put out to lose weight. There are no tricks, special circumstances, hoaxes, etc. It's BASIC!!!! I hear the same story from clients a LOT. However, get them to measure, weigh and write down EVERYTHING the actually eat and surprise...most overweight people who think they are eating healthily are but just eating TOO much healthy food. Too many calories equals too many getting around that. And too many calories do what folks? That's right, get stored on the body. The situation on the bus is horrible but I get PISSED when fat people roll over onto my seat on the plane like I won't notice that one half of my body is being smothered by someone else!?! I truly work hard, I work out, I eat right, I moderate even though I could live on Reese peanut butter cups and cheese if it was okay...I control what I do and eat. I fit in one seat, so I pay for one. If you take up 2, PAY for 2!
Glamgirl1 Glamgirl1 7 years
Um does anyone in here have an actual Medical Doctor Degree who specializes in Nutrition and weight management and a Neurologist and Psychologist who specializes in brain and behavior? To shut everyone up who do not have a medically diagnostic reasoning for there weight AKA those who are lazy just need some motivation not excuses like "oh im "big Boneded" wtf is that? just "big and beautiful"...NO it is not healthy u are killing urself slowly. Think "healthier choices and exercise" and get some sleep eat ur veggies n fruits..start little by little u dont have to jump right into it and starve urself that only makes it worse. start with small adjustments like "no soda"...only drink water and fresh made organic fruit juices. That alone will help a lot...then adjust the food little by little...stop sitting and walk...then jog..then so much to do you will never be bored sitting on the damn couch....turn off the TV and turn on the radio and dance everything counts...doing nothing will get u nowhere..
sham28 sham28 7 years
*overweight coworker
sham28 sham28 7 years
Thinism: I declined a donut offer recently because I said I was watching what I eat, and an overwork coworker called me anorexic.
Glamgirl1 Glamgirl1 7 years
i dont discriminate against anyone..but a "movement"?...NO the only movement that should be going on is Exercise..stuff happens that is beyond control as we all know such as over fed children and pregnancy weight. As for others who are overweight its time to think about your health and do something about it ..less eating unhealthy oily, fried, processed, non- lean, fatty, sugary, salty, un-natural food and more exercise! will feel much better too. I have no sympathy at all to those who are lazy or neglect themselves. To those who are doing something about it ..your heading in the right direction keep up the good work!
biarose biarose 7 years
Well I do think that if a person is so large that they take up two seats on an airplane then it is quite fair that they are charged for two seats.
TidalWave TidalWave 7 years
lol @ Chloe & Caterpillar! I agree! Thinism is the reason why I can't complain about never finding clothes that fit me correctly or that my size is never on the clearance rack.
chloe-bella chloe-bella 7 years
CG - I hear ya on that one. My personal favorite: "do you think being that skinny makes you attractive? Because it doesn't." I think I'm going to coin the term "thinism" and start raising awareness about pervasive discrimination toward thin people . . .
pinkprincess1101 pinkprincess1101 7 years
I'm glad I'm not the only one Cat it boggles my mind that people think its ok to make those comments but if I in turn greeted them with good morning fat girl you make me sick, I would be considered mean.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 7 years
I personally love the " You are so make me sick" comments I get from overwieght coworkers, nice thinly veiled comment wrapped in a jealous swipe.
Gdeeaz Gdeeaz 7 years
I do think people need to start taking responsibility for being overweight and stop making excuses. I also don't think that they should be made fun of because they are overweight, just like I don't think people should be made fun of for being thin, short, tall, dressing differently etc.
pinkprincess1101 pinkprincess1101 7 years
Of course I will not tell anyone to their face because that is mean and cruel but it is ok to think about it. I hate the stupid comments from family and friends. After I greet someone especially my thick best friend and my thick sister they greet me with "hi, damn you are a skinny b!@#$, after having kids you should not be that skinny" why is it ok to be that way with thin people? Can you imagine if someone greeted me with hi _______ and I said hi fat b!@#$ I would be punched in the face.
MissSushi MissSushi 7 years
I don't think we need laws for it.. but i also think people who feel it's okay to bash overweight people just because they can change it are pretty sickening. You might want to step back and rethink your actions towards others if you're okay with humiliating and discriminating against anyone simply becuase of how much they weigh. Secondly, sometimes people are always going to be overweight. When I was 16, I ate healthy foods and no fast food, lots of vegetables, and lean meats, little to no fatty or sweet foods, rode or walked the 4 miles between school and my job and home, worked as a brusher bather which is pretty physically intensive, and attended a daily 1 1/2 hour weight training class with cardio and weight training per your needs rotating every other day. I was still a size 16, while not obese, it's still large on my frame. Often my after work activity consisted on going somewhere else on the town, always on my bike. Genetics play a very large role, and unless you get a detailed list of every overweight persons eating habits and exercise plans, its a pretty broad generalization to just say stop eating. The majority of overweight people don't sit around wolfing down cake and chips anyway, they just don't have the greatest eating habits, and most of the food available these days is so over processed and full of chemicals. I don't think anyone needs to give excuses for their bodies, its THEIR body and you really don't get any input on it.
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