When it comes to being overweight, many people across the globe face ridicule and humiliation from others who poke fun at them.
One obesity expert is now saying that poking fun at overweight people should be treated much like racism or sexism, as it is equally offensive, if not more so.
Dr Sarah Jackson from University College London even went as far as to suggest that the law should protect fat people against weight discrimination after she carried out two studies into the effects of fattism on people.
In the more recent of the two studies, which involved 5,000 British adults, she found that obese people who were made to feel ashamed of their size suffered more symptoms of depression as well as living a lower quality of life.
Some examples of fattism include being on the receiving end of bad jokes, getting worse service when shopping and being considered stupid.
The research also found that people who suffer ridicule for their weight end up gaining weight as they comfort eat to handle their depression.
As Jackson said to reporters:
“In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 legally protects individuals from discrimination on the basis of age, sex, race, disability, religion or beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, pregnancy, or gender reassignment; making it clear that discriminatory behaviour of this nature is not to be accepted. However, our results indicate that discriminatory experiences contribute to poorer psychological wellbeing in individuals with obesity, but there are currently no laws prohibiting weight discrimination. This might send the message to people that weight discrimination is socially acceptable.”
At the same time, another researcher, Professor Jane Wardle, who worked alongside Jackson, said,
“Combined with our previous work showing that weight discrimination does not encourage weight loss, we can see that weight discrimination is part of the obesity problem and not the solution. Weight bias has been documented not only among the general public but also among health professionals; and many obese patients report being treated disrespectfully by doctors because of their weight.”
It’s not certain that fattism will ever be treated by the legal system in the same way as racism or sexism is. Nevertheless, the research shows evidence that it should be treated in the same way.