April 19th, 2012
I’ve got a riddle for you.
Who is it that we see working mostly at night, eating sugary and greasy food?
What is it that makes people cringe in disgust when they see them?
What is it that is the butt of bad jokes?
Who is it that earns less money?
Who is it that is denied health insurance?
Who is unhappy and miserable all the time?
Who is it that continually faces negative attitudes and prejudice?
Who is it that has no self-control, is lazy, stupid and ugly?
The last socially acceptable prejudice is against fat people.
Americans are heavier and heavier. Fast food, junk food, greasy food, and sugary foods rather than being treats now constitute the bulk of an American’s diet. Even though Americans are getting fatter, the ideal body shape is getting thinner. Because the differences between fat people and thin people are growing greater, the prejudice against heavy people is becoming greater.
Fat people are unhappy and miserable not because they’re facing health threats but because of prejudice and negative attitudes. Overweight people start to hate themselves, can develop eating disorders, and injure themselves through fad diets repeated over and over.
Overweight men and women are discriminated against in the workplace, are either not hired or are paid lower wages because they’re fat. They are denied health insurance because of their weight. Everyone around them, family, friends, and even strangers will shout epithets such as Fatty while constantly judging them.
The media is not kind to heavy people. They might be on TV but they are not the stars of the show. They are less likely to date or to have sex.
Discrimination is shown in three areas: education, health care, and in the workplace. 28% of teachers believe that being obese is one of the worst things that can happen to a person; 24% of nurses said they found obese people to be ‘repulsive.” Many physicians, dietitians, and mental health professionals are prejudiced towards people that are obese. How many times have we heard an eating disorder patient say that he/she would rather be dead than fat?
Can you image going to your doctor’s office and seeing the nurse or the doctor himself recoil when he begins to treat you?
I have written previously about helping heavy people become accepting of themselves. I have also written before about the discrimination and prejudice against fat people, including adults and children and each time I do, I feel angry and more than a little ill.
I teach my staff that each one of these women is a child of God. I ask for them to look for that tiny light inside of them that is covered up by the huge house. Once they see the little light, they know that there is a sensitive, fearful person in there.
Some of the most spiritual work a psychotherapist can do is to treat someone who is obese. We can treat these special clients with dignity and respect. We might not help them lose weight, but we can treat them honorably while they are learning to respect themselves.
As a nation, support the National Association To Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). The mission of NAAFA is to provide equal opportunity for fat people wherever discrimination is present. We need to help NAAFA have a broader presence because so many people in the US today are obese.