Discrimination against overweight people is as prevalent as racial discrimination

Discrimination against overweight people - particularly women - is as common as racial discrimination, according to a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.

“These results show the need to treat weight discrimination as a legitimate form of prejudice, comparable to other characteristics like race or gender that already receive legal protection,” said Rebecca Puhl, research scientist and lead author.

The study documented the prevalence of self-reported weight discrimination and compared it to experiences of discrimination based on race and gender among a nationally representative sample of adults aged 25- to 74-years-old. The data was obtained from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States.

The study also revealed that women are twice as likely as men to report weight discrimination and that weight discrimination in the workplace and interpersonal mistreatment due to obesity is common.

The researchers found that men are not at serious risk for weight bias until their body mass index (BMI) reaches 35 or higher, while women begin experiencing a notable increase in weight discrimination risk at a BMI level of 27. BMI is the measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Co-author Tatiana Andreyava of Yale said weight discrimination is more prevalent than discrimination based on sexual orientation, nationality/ethnicity, physical disability, and religious beliefs. “However, despite its high prevalence, it continues to remain socially acceptable,” she said.


  1. Jill Jill United States says:

    This article was quite intriguing. Personally, I have recently experienced a series of unfortunate circumstances relative to my size and weight. It was via means of an immediate Supervisor whom I worked for, and also my Director. I decided to resign from my position due the harassment and threats. Human Resources stated that they would investigate, but I have not heard anything back relative to the situation. I am doubtful as to their rectifying the situation and can only pray that it does not happen to anyone else. Please note that I am not filing a lawsuit as that is not the solution, however, bringing awareness to this problem is. I will do what I can to raise such awareness and continue to research this aspect of discrimination.

    • frank frank United States says:

      In this country of ours if you do not file a lawsuit you will not get any attention...file the lawsuit even if it's not for money it will get the attention it needs!

  2. Jill Jill United States says:

    If anyone should have further questions or would like to make their experience heard, please feel free to respond to this thread. Thank you.

    • Rachel T Rachel T United States says:

      Hey Jill! I was wondering if I could interview you via email or even a phone call. I know this sounds odd, but I am doing a research paper at Georgia State University about discrimination against people deemed overweight in the work environment. If you are interested, my email is [email protected]. Thanks so much if you can

  3. Lynette Lynette United States says:

    I am an Executive Assistant. Many, many times I have not been hired because of my weight. I have an excellent resume and have been told this several times by HR Directors, by senior-level executives and staffing agencies. When I was a size 8, I could get another job in 2 weeks. Now, it takes up to a year and even then I get temporary work. I think age discrimination has something to do with it as well, as I am over 40 and now "look" like I'm about 45.

  4. Michele Michele United States says:

    I am 53 years old and depressed that isn't everything about myself but for now it's number 2 on my list besides being boxy or wide. Recently I went into a store I go in a lot they have a small store and a big store for small and big kind of people. I picked out a cute top the peasant look they call it and put it to the side I was going to buy it after I picked out another top so I can get the $10.00 deal. I was looking around and heard one of the sales people talking about the shirt and how she would not wear it because it makes people that are big or boxy look bigger or boxier. Not to let her know I was pissed I said I love this look which I really do. You see she didn't know I was behind her as she looked around very slowly once around the left and once around the right that's when she knew I heard her. Well after I told one of the other sales people, they wanted to address the issue but I said I would call the corperate office and explain myself. I did alright they sent me a 30% off coupon for their clothes in the small store but they don't fit my bottom and the big store won't fit my top, why couldn't they send me at least 2 coupons so I'll be evened out? Better yet save the 30% because if they keep hiring people who discriminate against fat people they need to add another 70% in the lawyers fees to get them out of a whole lot of big mouth trouble. Yes I'm mad and yes I wish I could hire a lawyer only if I thought I would win..

  5. Mauricio Mauricio United States says:

    I personally am not overweight, in fact the opposite i'm in shape, but I personally love big people, they usually are nicer than most people and don't look bad at all, over half my friends family, and my girlfriend is overwieght - that just makes me love 'em that much more. And personally, girls and guys shouldn't get discriminated people look better with a lil more meat. My opinion, only reason i'm not big is due to my lifestyle so I won't jugde theirs!

  6. lynne lynne South Africa says:

    Hi there, I am 30 years old and about 30kg overweight. I work with a 45 year old women who is obsessed with health and constantly makes remarks that overweight people are the way they are as they live unhealthy and eat too much fat. This turned into a huge argument and i am thinking of making a complaint against her.

    • AWS AWS United States says:

      If we live unhealthy and eat fat then have her kindly explain why I am almost 80lbs overweight. I am diabetic, I also have kidney disease and as such, I follow a rigorous salt-free and low-fat diet and exercise for at least 60 min a day. And I still gain or maintain my weighty status. Why? Because the insulin I take makes the body retain any fats it encounters. It's not the "unhealthy" lifestyle or the "unhealthy" way we eat it's predisposition, genetics and luck. Ask Ms. Fit & Trim how long she would maintain her figure if she stopped exercising and ate what she wanted...

  7. Anna Anna Bulgaria says:

    I eat whatever I want, however I exercise a lot. And I am happy I can be slim and tight Nothing is more precious than slim and tight body and everyone can reach it with more will (excluding these who put on weight due to medicines, then their situation is understandable). But other people do not have any excuses.

    • pyewackett pyewackett Australia says:

      Anna what a load of bullsh**. what is more precious is the love of your family, good health and happiness. I'm overweight always have been struggled all my life, diet after diet surgery after surgery, pills& potions, rigorous exercise, shakes, protein only, low carb, starvation and still the same weight I returned to once I started eating again. No lipids, no diabetes for me. No takeway do I eat. I cook all my and my families meals from scratch. Sorry there is more to weight than diet and exercise. Happy for you but why make other people feel like lazy junk food addict pigs??? Bad attitude girl.

  8. Kim Kim United States says:

    Anna, that is one of the most closed minded, judgmental statements I have ever read.  I am not an overweight person, however, I am not "slim and tight" anymore either as I am almost 40 years old and have 2 children.  Instead of judging others for something you obviously have no idea about, why don't you try researching the topic?  That would make you look much less shallow and a little more educated that you appear to be at this point.

    Furthermore, if you think that having a slim tight body is the most precious thing in your life....you are in a sad state.  There are so many things that are more important that than.  Children, husband, and family would be some of them.  

  9. Tessa Tessa United States says:

    Plz somebody tell these judgemental people to give it a rest already.I work with a woman ,yes a woman who makes comments on my weight all the time.I get upset about it but have a boss who would probably agree with her.I really think it is so sad when women want to put other women down about their weight,look who says that this woman won't end up on meds or have something happen to her in the future out of her control that causes a weight gain.God forbid,anyway she is an unhappy person and I would rather be overweight and happy and treat others as nice as possible any day!! I really hope some day for people to be able to work with others without the injustice of these types of discrimination, and be able to be taken seriously when you ask for help about these situations in the workplace.

  10. D Bryce Patterson D Bryce Patterson United States says:

    I think yhat overweight people should organize into an association to promote understanding of weight issues and combat the types of steriotypes and attitudes exhibited by Anna ( who is typical).  The image of "perfect body type" is generated in Hollywood among those who profit financially from steriotyping human beings and by eletists with political objectives.  I read somewhere that only about 3 percent of the population has an "ectomorphic" (slim) body type. Yet this body-type is thrust upon the populace constituting the other 97 percent.  I think it is also a product of the narrow minded thinking of our society which places so much value on appearance to the exclusuin of character or substance.  I think that all of these issues are important issues that could best be addressed by overweight people and non-ectmorphs forming a non-profit legal association to concentrate an effort to address this important arwa of discrimination as it doubtlessly affect millions of people who are being singled out even by government for discriminatory treatment.

  11. D Bryce Patterson D Bryce Patterson United States says:

    I found this organization which, I think, says it very well.  
    "Founded in 1969, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is a non-profit, all volunteer, civil rights organization dedicated to protecting the rights and improving the quality of life for fat people. NAAFA works to eliminate discrimination based on body size and provide fat people with the tools for self-empowerment through advocacy, public education, and support.

    Fat people are discriminated against in all aspects of daily life, from employment to education to access to public accommodations, and even access to adequate medical care. This discrimination occurs despite evidence that 95 to 98 percent of diets fail over five years and that 65 million Americans are labeled “obese.” Our thin-obsessed society firmly believes that fat people are at fault for their size and it is politically correct to stigmatize and ridicule them. Fat discrimination is one of the last publicly accepted discriminatory practices. Fat people have rights and they need to be upheld!
    NAAFA will be a powerful force for positive social change. Using our collec­tive will, talents and resources, we will improve the world — not just for fat people, but for everyone.

    Visit their site at:  http://www.naafaonline.com/dev2/about/index.html

    NAAFA’s message of size acceptance and self-acceptance is often overshadowed by a $49 billion-a-year diet industry that has a vested economic interest in perpetuating discrimination against fat people. Without active financial support from people like you, NAAFA would not exist and could not fulfill its crucial role defending your rights. While it is an uphill battle to achieve our goals, together we are making a difference.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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