Interesting essay this week in The New York Times about how and when the seriously overweight feel others’ contempt:
As a woman whose height and weight put me in the obese category on the body-mass-index chart, I cringed when Michelle Obama recently spoke of putting her daughters on a diet. While I’m sure the first lady’s intentions are good, I’m also sure that her comments about childhood obesity will add yet another layer to the stigma of being overweight in America.
Last August, Dr. Delos M. Cosgrove, a cardiac surgeon and chief executive of the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, told a columnist for The New York Times that if he could get away with it legally, he would refuse to hire anyone who is obese. He probably could get away with it, actually, because no federal legislation protects the civil rights of fat workers, and only one state, Michigan, bans discrimination on the basis of weight.
Dr. Cosgrove may be unusually blunt, but he is far from alone. Public attitudes about fat have never been more judgmental; stigmatizing fat people has become not just acceptable but, in some circles, de rigueur. I’ve sat in meetings with colleagues who wouldn’t dream of disparaging anyone’s color, sex, economic status or general attractiveness, yet feel free to comment witheringly on a person’s weight.
The writer, Harriet Brown, teaches magazine journalism at the Newhouse School in Seattle. She also found that doctors…!?…hate fatties:
Some of the most blatant fat discrimination comes from medical professionals. Rebecca Puhl, a clinical psychologist and director of research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, has been studying the stigma of obesity for more than a decade. More than half of the 620 primary care doctors questioned for one study described obese patients as “awkward, unattractive, ugly, and unlikely to comply with treatment.” (This last is significant, because doctors who think patients won’t follow their instructions treat and prescribe for them differently.)
Dr. Puhl said she was especially disturbed at how openly the doctors expressed their biases. “If I was trying to study gender or racial bias, I couldn’t use the assessment tools I’m using, because people wouldn’t be truthful,” she said. “They’d want to be more politically correct.”
Despite the abundance of research showing that most people are unable to make significant long-term changes in their weight, it’s clear that doctors tend to view obesity as a matter of personal responsibility. Perhaps they see shame and stigma as a health care strategy.
I need to lose weight. My GP wants me to lose so much weight I might as well cut off a leg or two to get started.
I want to lose weight, too — and for the past three months have been fighting excruciating hip and back pain. You can’t exercise when you’re in agony! One of the toughest issues when trying to lose weight is being told — over and over and over — by your family, your doctors and every single women’s magazine featuring anorexic 15-year-old models — what to do, what you must do, what is the smart, healthy choice.
You can be overweight and still have a functioning brain! We’re not deaf, you know.
Telling someone what to do is very different from helping them achieve a challenging goal. We live in a finger-wagging culture, where every self-righteous size 4 feels totally fine telling the rest of us if you just….be like moi!…we’d be fine. Going into stores to buy something pretty, even willing to spend some serious coin, and being told, oh no, we sell nothing larger than a 12 is another smack in the head. Larger sizes? Only on the website, blubber-butt!
I still make money, Ann Taylor, French Connection, J. Crew…
I often feel so totally overwhelmed by my competing responsibilities — and I don’t even have all the additional, relentless and time-consuming demands of kids and/or pets and/or a commute and/or a parent with Alzheimer’s — that going to the damn gym or taking my hour-long 4-mile walk falls right off the list after: earn money (in this recession, freelance, no small challenge), manage whatever money I’ve earned, saved and invested meticulously, get out and drum up more paid work to make sure that next month’s bills are paid, finish my book, work on the next book idea, take care of my partner and our home.
And, oh yeah, take care of my body, spirit and mind.
It is easy to feel hopeless and fed up. It is hard(er) work to do what needs to be done.