April 28, 2009

Group Tackles Discrimination Against Obesity

Many obese Americans are taking part in an online campaign against dieting.

The new movement is being fueled by bloggers who refer to their collective as the "fat-o-sphere", according to Reuters.

One of those bloggers is 34-year-old Kate Harding of Chicago. Harding, the author of the book "Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere." She told Reuters that she spent most of her early life trying different diet schemes, none of which ever seemed to work.

She, along with others within the movement, has come to the conclusion that being overweight is not a crime. The group aims to raise self-esteem and empowerment of overweight women.

"Being fat doesn't make me lazy or stupid or morally suspect," said Harding.

"The message we're promoting is health at every size."

The movement is even beginning to launch new initiatives aimed at promoting anti-bias laws.

"People are just beginning to think about being empowered," said Lynn McAfee, director of medical advocacy at the nonprofit Council on Size and Weight Discrimination.

"The emphasis has just been 'lose weight and everything will be fine,' and it's becoming really clear that people aren't losing weight," she said. "So we want to shift the emphasis to making us as healthy as we can be at whatever weight we are."

The movement is beginning to be reflected in the courtroom as well as in the media, where thin has traditionally been in.

Raised awareness led to the use of larger seat belts in cars and a Canadian Supreme Court decision claiming that obese people cannot be forced to purchase a second seat when traveling on an airplane.

On television, Fox is working on a reality dating show called "More to Love", which will feature "average looking" contestants.

Now, the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance has become larger than ever thanks to its presence on the Web.

Founded in 1969, the NAAFA is a non-profit civil rights organization that aims to "build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life"¦through advocacy, public education and support."

The NAAFA has found that about 70 percent of obese women have reported bias from a healthcare provider as well as being turned away by health insurance companies.

In spite of the growing movement to accept obesity, most people still believe that overweight people should lose weight.

Obesity-related health care cost upward of $100 billion a year, according to Reuters.

Michigan is the only US State to have an anti-weight bias law. Movements for similar laws in Massachusetts and Nevada have failed.

Rebecca Puhl, director of research at Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity said discrimination of obese people is widespread.

"We do need to fight obesity, but not obese people," said Puhl. "Individuals ... who are discriminated against because of their weight are more likely to engage in unhealthy eating behaviors and avoidance of physical activity."


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