Should body weight be considered a protected class under Civil Rights laws? According to 3 out of 4 people asked in a new study, the answer is yes.
New research from the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity shows most Americans support policies addressing weight discrimination. In fact, at least 60 percent of Americans are supportive of policy efforts to address weight discrimination across the country.
According to Rebecca Puhl, PhD, study author and deputy director of the Rudd Center, “More than two-thirds of adults in the United States are affected by overweight or obesity, meaning they are also vulnerable to the stigma and discrimination that these proposed policies and laws would help prevent.”
“Rates of weight discrimination are comparable with rates of racial discrimination, especially for women, and are seen across multiple domains, from healthcare and employment to media and personal relationships,” she wrote in the study.
Two of the clearest examples of weight discrimination come from the flight and clothing industries. Southwest Airlines’ controversial “Too Fat to Fly” policy has spurred many debates about weight, and statements made by various clothing company CEOs, such as those that came from Abercrombie & Fitch have caused tremendous backlash.
The reactions and debates are sure signs that people’s minds are changing about weight and weight discrimination. Of course, we want everyone to be healthy and do what they can to achieve health, but shaming or disrespecting someone because they aren’t there isn’t the way to do it.
Seemingly, more people are seeing it that way. At least, Dr. Puhl thinks so.
“We’re hopeful that identifying these trends in support of action to end weight discrimination can provide backing for current and future policy efforts.”
She also believes part of the increased support for these measures comes from the American Medical Association designating obesity as a disease last year.
Though attitudes towards people who are obese or overweight may be shifting, there’s still a long way to go. Fat-shaming is still prevalent in society, especially online where people can get away with it anonymously.
As Dr. Phul wrote in the study, “We still have a long way to go. Reducing weight discrimination requires shifting societal attitudes and challenging stigma in multiple settings.”