Discrimination Against Fat & Obese People

Does this sign encourage safety or discrimination?

too big to ride1 Discrimination Against Fat & Obese People

At least they used the word "large."

I snapped this picture at the state fair in Columbia a couple of weeks ago — I was about 215 pounds at the time, so the sign didn’t “apply” to me.  I could ride the ride, with ease, without stares, judgment, or criticism for the ride operator or from people standing in line behind me.

But it hasn’t always been that way, of course.

It was only a couple of years ago when I felt those stares and heard the judgment and criticism, unable to ride the same ride at the fair with the sign posted above.  I wasn’t able to sit down in certain movie theaters, nor was I able to sit down in most restaurants (that’s why we never tried new places).  I was criticized for my life choices by strangers, made fun of because of my size, and just generally gawked at because I weighed 344 pounds.

At no point throughout my entire life, not when I was 344 pounds, now when I was 200 pounds, did I think that this was discrimination toward me.  It was cruel, yes, and the jokes, ridicule, and restrictions made me miserable, but none of it was discrimination.

The sign at the fair above wasn’t discrimination, either.  The fair operator didn’t secretly meet in a basement somewhere with all the ride manufacturers and engineers and think of some way to oppress obese people.  Likewise, the airlines didn’t do the same and decide to charge overweight people for two seats, just as a way to “get back at them for being so fat.”

If you can’t safely in a ride, you don’t ride.  If you can’t fit in one seat on an airline, you have to buy two seats.  It’s not discrimination, it’s common sense.

However, surely, some out there my disagree with me.

If you think the sign above promotes discrimination and the world simply oppresses fat, overweight, and obese people, you might want to join the fat acceptance movement.  The fat acceptance movement was formed by a few naive folks that think it’s not unhealthy to be 400 pounds.

While the “movement” does do a little good by shining the light on social issues like preventing bullying, they do a lot more bad than good as they’re content with being 100+ pounds overweight with no desire to change and promote this lifestyle as being a healthy “alternative” to diet and exercise.

Fat chance.

How common is discrimination against fat, overweight, and obese people?

26 thoughts on “Discrimination Against Fat & Obese People”

  1. I think it’s important that our societies do *not* accept obesity as being ok. Being unable to do stuff because of my size, and being judged by people has been an excellent motivator for me.

    It’s difficult though. There comes a point where the fat person is so ashamed and/or is unable to do stuff that they are “locked in” to their obesity. This happened to me. My source of pleasure became sedentary stuff, like movies, computer games, and of course, more food.

  2. Going off this post and Harry’s comment above, I think the motivation to change goes beyond the inherent safety liability of an amusement park ride. Even something as simple as going to the beach or water park – I avoided both of those places like the plague, often making up lame excuses as to why I couldn’t partake with friends. While my own friends or family wouldn’t make cruel jokes (and honestly, nobody would really just walk up to someone and start laughing), the fear of being judged was plenty to keep me away from anywhere that required me to take my shirt off. Little kids starring and occasionally meeting eye contact with other people looking in my direction made me feel SO uncomfortable. Much like Harry, my sources of pleasure became indoor sedentary stuff.

    By next summer, I’m hoping this will change. I’m looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone and being confident enough to go to the beach, ride the water slides, and generally enjoy outdoor life more than I ever have before. Like most of us here, I was self-conscious about my physical appearance. And I still am, even after dropping 70lbs. I’ll be using this as motivation all winter long, slowly working towards a healthy body that I can be proud of.

  3. Interesting read.
    15 years ago in America I don’t think you would have seen such a sign. I haven’t lived in America since 1998 – so whenever I go back to eastern North Carolina – I am always shocked.

  4. Sobering sign. Too bad that it’s come to this, and you are right, it’s all about common sense. “Large” folks are in danger…and it’s not just riding at the amusement park that puts them at risk. One of the thoughts that turned me around was this; “I am eating someone elses food”. What earthly good is the “second”? I get to double my caloric intake and at the same time…I’m eating soneone elses portion. I’m taking up too much room on the planet, both ways. Granted, there are body types…mesomorph, ectomorph, endomorph…but “obese-o-morph” is just not on my radar as decent. Is this mean? I think it’s time to sound the alarm in America…gluttony is not cool.

  5. I wouldn’t say that this particular sign is discriminatory, but yes, I do believe overweight people are discriminated against. Daily. They are ridiculed, belittled, thought of as stupid, etc etc etc. Just look at how overweight people are portrayed in movies and on tv sitcoms. Day to day, people laugh at them behind their backs. And sometimes, not behind their backs.

  6. I agree with you. Even at my largest ever (300 lbs) I would agree with you. Personally I think there is too much PC with regards to this issue. Just my opinion of course…

  7. The sign is relatively tame and not intended to be offensive or critical of overweight people, it’s just telling the truth about the rides.

    While I don’t think people should be bullied for being overweight, I think the whole “accept yourself as your are” movement is misguided. If you’re overweight, you shouldn’t accept that, you just shouldn’t be harped on because of it. There’s a difference. I’m overweight, and I don’t accept it, and I want to change it.

    1) We shouldn’t accept it for ourselves.
    2) Others should accept it in terms of bullying, but not in terms of society. That’s why we’re where we are.

  8. Accepting yourself for “who you are” should never include accepting or embracing unhealthiness as a characteristic that defines who we are.

    1. This is really poorly written, excuse my rather poor grip of the only language I know. I need the ability to edit/delete comments, lol.

  9. My concern is not amusement park rides- though I’m much happier that I can ride them now. My concern now is medical care. Everything is related to obesity when you have a symptom. If you weren’t fat, you’d be healthy and often times, obese people have some pretty severe medical problems that are ignored. They hear so often that they’re ‘just fat’ that they quit seeking medical care and end up dying because of something that could have been easily fixed.

    I don’t think that building rides to suit 400 pound people is a good idea, but I do think it’s a good idea to listen to EVERYBODY when they tell you something isn’t right with their body.

    1. I agree. I took my son to the doctor because I don’t think he consumes enough calories to maintain his 350+ pounds. I wanted his thyroid and cortisol levels checked, and the doctor basically blew me off.

  10. When I was 25 I weighed about 230 pounds (not my heaviest either). I had to have surgery on my ankle that kept me in a cast for months. I remember getting on a packed, standing room only bus with my BIG PURPLE CAST for everyone to see and NOT ONE PERSON GAVE ME THEIR SEAT. I stood on the bus in disbelief and watched as some guy gave up his seat to a skinny little blond who got on at the next stop. I will never forget how ashamed, angry, humiliated, discriminated against, and sad I felt that day.

  11. When you are related to an obese person, or friends with one, it really changes the way you think about these things. People who are thin and who don’t know anyone who is obese really don’t understand. It’s sad that obese people are living with an addiction (in many cases) to something they NEED to survive. Not only that, their weakness shows to everyone around them. Alcoholics, gambling addicts and drug addicts can hide their flaws. Not fat people. My son is 18 years old and weighs over 350 pounds. It kills me seeing him not be able to do things most kids can do. I’ve tried everything to motivate him to lose weight – including paying him. I know he wants to, but in some ways he has just accepted that he is a “fat person.” He inherited his metabolism from his dad. See, people don’t understand that it is more complicated than people just simply overeating. Some people eat a normal amount but have a very slow metabolism. Then they compound it by living a sedentary lifestyle because they become obese. My son eats less than I do (I weigh 112 pounds) and yet he is morbidly obese. Yes, obesity is a problem. However, people need to quit judging before they truly understand the issue.

    1. “He inherited his metabolism from his dad. See, people don’t understand that it is more complicated than people just simply overeating.”

      It isn’t that he inherited his dad’s metabolism, it’s that he “inherited” his habits. When people have their metabolism actually tested, a “slow” metabolism is anywhere from 5-20% lower than average.

      So if the average RMR for their age/sex/weight is 2300 calories, you’re talking in the range 100-400 calories. A surplus of 250 calories doesn’t make you 350 pounds.

      People that complain about their “skinny friends with fast metabolisms that can eat whatever they want and not gain a pound” are simply glossing over the reality that those friends still eat reasonable portions and are, in all likelihood, far more active than they give them credit for.

      1. They are both to blame. Just like many diseases are caused by a combination of genes and environment. The doctor is the one who said it was his metabolism that he inherited, not me. The doctor said he just needs less calories. All the reading I have done says you shouldn’t consume less than your basal metabolic rate, which for my son at his weight would be approx. 3000 calories a day. He eats about 2000-2500 now and still he weighs over 350 pounds. The doctor said he should cut back to 1500-1800 a day, to start – and if he doesn’t lose weight with that we should cut back even more. This is in addition to exercising 30-60 min. per day.

  12. Just a couple of observations:

    1. Discrimination against fat people is not only perfectly legal in the US (with only a few exceptions), but it is also widely accepted.

    2. Of all the legitimate examples out there of *true* fat discrimination, I’m surprised you chose this sign at the fair -which is clearly *not* discrimination- to illustrate your point.

    3. Do you think it’s “common sense” that persons in a wheelchair should pay more for an airline to accomodate them? Note, I’m not attempting to equate fat people with disabled people. I’m trying to demonstrate that this issue is more complex than just common sense. Who gets to decide the cutoff weight? The airlines? Ha, they should make their seats smaller so that they can charge more….more often!

    4. Your interpretation of the Fat Acceptance Movement seems misguided. Are there people out there who are proud of their 400 lb stature and perfectly content being obese? Sure. Does that describe the mission and purpose of the fat acceptance movement as a whole? No. From Naafa.org:

    “Founded in 1969, the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) is a non-profit civil rights organization dedicated to ending size discrimination in all of its forms. NAAFA’s goal is to help build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life. NAAFA will pursue this goal through advocacy, public education, and support.”

    Their mission is to end discrimination (REAL discrimination) against fat people. Not to promote an unhealthy lifestyle.

    HAES (Health at every size) PROMOTES good health, by recognizing that there are more factors that contribute to our overall health than some number on the scale.

    As a weight loss blogger, this is a concept I can relate to and have spoken often about. When I get frustrated because the number on the scale doesn’t reflect the hard work I’ve done, I remind myself of all the “non-scale victories” I have such as my clothes being loose, or being able to fit on a ride at the fair. What we can learn from this “movement” is that we ARE more than just a number. Our weight is only ONE facet (of many) that make up our overall health. When someone looks at me now, they still see an obese woman. What they can’t tell by looking at me is that I’ve lost almost 25% of my weight and can now run 9+ miles straight without having to walk. So, while I’m still technically obese, I’m healthier now than some people I know who are technically at a “healthy” weight.

    We all have different experiences and I’m glad for you that you never personally experienced discrimination due to your weight. Seriously, that’s pretty awesome. However, that doesn’t make it any less real. It definitely exists….In doctor’s offices, in job interviews, in restaurants, in magazines (Marie Claire?), and in the insurance industry. Insurance industry? Yes, I believe it’s discrimination for an insurance company to deny a person health insurance based on their BMI. Especially given the fact that they *can’t* deny smokers – they just charge them more. I don’t mind paying more for my health insurance, because I recognize I’m a higher risk for ailments because of my weight, but to absolutely refuse to even cover me? How is that NOT discrimination? Perfectly legal discrimination, by the way!

    This has absolutely nothing to do with being “politically correct” for me. This is about treating people with the dignity and respect they deserve regardless of what that number on the scale says.

    Sorry for such a long comment, I just couldn’t stay silent on this one.

    1. Their mission may be noble, but I don’t know if their actions are. TBH, I haven’t done the research. But I will say that much of the “fat acceptance” movement (amongst regular folks, not necessarily members of the naafa) is perceived and proliferated as a movement of being proud / accepting being overweight (which happens when goals are taken to their extreme – it tends to happen) instead of just trying to reduce discrimination.

      I think in the process of trying to reduce discrimination, people reach the level of “fat is okay” because they’re trying to send that message to the bullies, etc. It may not even be intentional, but I’ve seen it a lot. There comes a point where you’re damaging people while trying to rescue their self esteem.

      As a person who despises the insurance industry – I still actually understand it when they charge more or deny coverage for obese/overweight people. In the current insurance (for profit) climate – there’s absolutely no reason to take on more customers that are going to end up costing your business more. It just makes sense. Sure – we see it as discrimination, but you have to remember that they’re making those decisions because of money, maybe money that they need to keep others insured. Why WOULD an insurance company accept people with a much higher potential of draining money from them? The insurance industries catch a lot of flack, but they aren’t the problem. The entire system is the problem.

      We shouldn’t need insurance – that’s the overarching principle here. We only have insurance in this world, because we’ve let companies charge whatever they want and get away with it. My mother had a 5-day pill she had to take the other day and it was $40 per tablet before insurance. THAT’s what needs fixed in healthcare. The prices need fixed, not the insurance industry. The insurance industry needs to dissolve altogether.

      Unfortunately, healthcare reform is doing nothing to help fix the pricing problem. Instead, it’s bandaging the insurance industry (and maybe even damaging it). Some insurance companies have already sent letters and made public statements, that their rates are now going up solely because of the new healthcare law. Hrmm, seems to not be working, eh?

  13. I wouldn’ty mind payuing for two seats on an airplane- but most airlines will not allow me to do that- I have tried with Air France, North West, British Airlines, Brussels Air (or whatever they are calling themselves today), Lufthansa, easy Jet, Ryan Air and American – once I got lucky with KLM (part of the air france group) they would not allow be to buy an extra seat but made sure that no one was next to me

  14. Wow, this post took people in many directions. I do not think the sign is discriminatory, nor do I think buying two seats on a airplane is discriminatory. People discriminate against overweight people for one simple reason – obesity is a choice. That is why people are upset – you make the choice to be unhealthy and I pay for it in my healthcare premiums or by not being able to sit in my plane seat because the person next to me has overtaken half of it. Whether you want to blame it on big bones, slow metabolism, genetics or whatever else works that day, the simple fact is more calories in than calories out equals oveweight. I know this is supposed to be a supportive blog and that this post may seem cold and unfeeling, but we cannot continue to blame everyone and anything for being overweight. People are fat by choice. People don’t get fat by eating right and exercising. They get fat by eating processed foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle. I make the choice to work out every morning and eat a salad everyday for lunch. I eat more food today than I did when I was overweight – the difference is that it is the right food. I made a choice to change.

  15. Wow, Buckeye Betty, are you insensitive by choice as well? If you really were overweight at one point, you should know better than anyone the struggles obese people can face. And the difficult journey it is to lose weight.

    The problem here is this; people who are successful at losing weight often become very self-righteous and think “If I did it, anyone can do it! It’s that simple!” It isn’t. Unfortunately, Tyler is guilty of this as well. Often times, Tyler, your posts come across as self-righteous, and not very compassionate. For someone who weighed as much as you did, you should understand more than anyone that discrimination does exist, and it isn’t ‘simple and easy’ to lose weight. If it was, you would have never gotten to 344 pounds. It’s hard. And just because you’ve been so sucessful, doesn’t mean EVERYONE should just automatically GET IT and lose weight. Try to be a little more empathetic when speaking about overweight people in your posts. ‘Tough love” doesn’t work for everyone.

    It’s a personal and private journey that we all come to in our own time.

    1. The self-righteous tone occurs with all “ex-” people. Ex-alcoholics (Glenn Beck), ex-drug addicts (Rush Limbaugh), ex-smokers, ex-everything. I think what is intended as encouragement comes across as “I did it, why can’t you?” Well, it is different for everyone. I think examples like Tyler’s are true inspiration; proof that it can be done. I think all of us who have accomplished something want to help others do the same. But, we must remember how we were before our achievment and be sensitive to the struggles others are going through – the same ones we went through before we were able to overcome them.

    2. Oh I know what you mean there. I used to be obese, and now I’m not. When I watch TV shows like Biggest Loser, I think two things:

      1. You can do it! I know you think you can’t but I’m proof!
      2. I remember being there, and thinking that there is nothing that I can do.

      Regardless, there are other things to remember – every body is different. What works for one might not work for another. I lost weight much faster than my friends, but I was younger and exercised constantly. Losing it once doesn’t mean it won’t come back. As you get older, your needs change, your life stresses change, and you can easily gain weight (I’ve had to lose baby weight and now just “dang I hurt my knee and I can’t run anymore” weight.) Also, weight loss changes as you age. Weight doesn’t come off at 40 like it did at 32. Plus the knees mean that my exercise options don’t include running right now.

      Finally, obese people’s bodies are just DIFFERENT. For example, most of the fat cells on your body come from when you are a teenager. If you were a fat/obese teenager, you have MANY more fat cells than someone who gained weight as an adult. In addition, actually being obese means it changes your body’s reaction to certain foods. People who were formerly obese’s bodies react MUCH more strongly to carbohydrates that people who have never been overweight (see “Refuse to Regain by Dr. Barbara Berkeley.) My max weight was 182 lbs (at 5’2″.) That means what I can handle right now from a food standpoint is different than someone whose max weight was 250 lbs.

  16. Regarding my post above about my son. I am not blaming anybody for his obesity. He doesn’t either. Regarding the fact that it is a “choice” to be obese….hmmm I could go a lot of directions with that regarding other things which are also a choice yet society seems to think they are ok. I will not go there. All I want is for people to understand that metabolism does IN FACT play a role. I did not make up the metabolism issue. The doctor is the one who said it was in the genes. My son has a brother who is 19 months younger. He eats approximately the same (probably even a little worse) and lives the same lifestyle. Yet he is skinny. I am thin, my ex husband (their father) is big. It is IN FACT more difficult for some people than others to maintain a healthy weight. Should they put in the extra effort – yes! However, for some people they gain the weight before they realize that they have to live a different lifestyle than the people around them. Is there discrimination – yes. People just look at the person and make assumptions about them. One of the worst ways this can affect them is in their ability to get a job. This is wrong. However, I don’t believe special accomodations should be made for them in movie theaters, amusement parks, etc. Yes, they do have the power to lose the weight. I just wish people would stop judging others’ so harshly just based upon what they look like.

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