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« Everything I need to know about life I can learn from my bicycle | Main | The Newspaper Boy »


When I read this article on the BBC website, I wasn’t sure whether to be amused or simply amazed.

People are campaigning in Britain to make it illegal to discriminate against anyone who is overweight, on the same grounds as race, age and religious discrimination.

Apparently such a law is already in effect in San Francisco, which bans “Fat-ism” in housing and employment and stops doctors from pressing patients to slim down.

I can to a certain extent, sympathize with anyone that has a weight problem, but the fact of the matter is, if you are overweight you are taking in more calories than your body is burning. The only cure is eating less and exercising more.

I consider it ludicrous to suggest a doctor should not tell a patient to lose weight; he would be failing in his job if he did not do so. I have known several people who were diabetic and after they started exercising and lost weight, their diabetes disappeared.

The campaigners, who belong to the Size Acceptance Movement, say surveys show 93% of employers would rather employ a thin person than a fat one even if they are equally qualified.

Well, duh. An employer would also rather employ a non-smoker over a smoker, a healthy person over a less than healthy person.

It’s why people have to take a drug test to get a job. Not because employers are into law enforcement; it’s because junkies do not make good workers. And is not a morbidly obese person a food junkie?

Statistics have also shown that employers will choose a tall person over a short person; why not a law to protect short people. After all an overweight person can do something about their weight, but a short person can do absolutely nothing about his height.

Maybe we should stop telling people who abuse drugs and alcohol that they are ruining their health. No more interventions for friends and loved ones, just allow them their right to kill themselves slowly.

Of course I am being facetious, but really. People should be encouraged to live a healthy lifestyle, and movements like these are counterproductive. This wide spread obesity epidemic has only materialized in the last twenty or thirty years, it is a lifestyle problem.

Like all such problems, it will only change when attitudes change, and lifestyles change. You cannot do that by laws and legislation, only by education and encouragement.

Please feel free to weigh in on this subject; I would be interested to hear your views


Reader Comments (19)

Overweight is one thing. But when I see someone incredibly obese, I question their judgment. Why would I ever hire someone who can't take care of his own body to take care of my business? I think your analogy to drug addicts is appropriate. These people may be perfectly smart and nice, but until they shape up, they're putting themselves intentionally at risk. Overweight is a choice. Like smoking. Not something you're born with like race or gender. And unlike race or gender, it actually can interfere with job performance.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermeghan

Dave, I totally agree! Couldn't have said it better myself.

It rings so false in my ears to hear people who "struggle" with their weight, when their struggle, as it turns out, consists of feelings of guilt while chomping down fast food.

I am reasonably thin, but have to drag myself out year around to work out and stay fit. I gain weight like nobodys business if I ever let myself get lazy about it. Besides the exercise, I cycle back and forth to work (about an hour each way), and never eat fast food or even red meat.

Forcing yourself out in the wet and cold for a run, day in, day out, when all you really want to do is crawl down in a chair and relax after a long day... THAT is a struggle.

My 2 cents.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Being overweight is definitely a cause for alarm for our health care systems. Most people are overweight by choice. They choose to over eat (or just eat poorly) and they choose to not exercise. These people should be flogged and punished like smokers who make a conscious decision to ruin their health and ask the public to pay for it.

My sympathies only extend to those people with chronic medical conditions such as thyroid imbalances, muscular/skeletal disabilities, genetic defects that wreck havoc with metabolisms, etc. Those people need our help and support.

I am all for a "fat stipend" debit card that can be recharged yearly at annual physicals or by exercising and earning the credit.

Soon health care providers will base our coverage and costs by standardized charts like BMI because people can't be trusted to take care of themselves. I'm no fan of the BMI but I don't know what else they can use.

Any ideas?

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBoris

This all bothers me much since we are a food culture. I was diagnosed as type two at twenty pounds over my proper weight. There is a genetic angle , it's in my family. On the other hand , instead of using drugs to be non diabetic , I lost the weight. I stopped eating processed food. I am now close to normal , a few more pounds...
But the problem remains that the food industry does not want us to stop eating , just as the booze and dope community want us all to be users and the entertainment crowd want us all on our arses in front of the telly.
And as we get older our metabolism changes .
As Dave says , move and lose the weight .
In the meanwhile the nanny state is going to have everyone on statins and type two drugs in order to defeat the eating problem. Ass backwards as always.

I couldn't agree more. And the government itself is pushing obesity on us with the food pyramid - heavily laden with starchy, empty-calorie goodness.

I'm glad (well, maybe not glad so much as relieved) to see that this problem is not unique to the US.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterToddBS

Dave, I think obesity is a very complicated situation. On the one hand, I think it is entirely the result of an individual's life decisions. On the other, I don't think that obesity should be grounds for me to be allowed to belittle somebody.

Laws shouldn't need to be passed to protect people who are obese. I get made fun of for some of my traits. Ever heard a blond joke? In response to some quotes on the linked article, it is illegal to beat somebody up. That's called assault.

Employers should be allowed to choose between applicants based on whether or not they appear to be healthy (meaning they will be present, motivated, alert...). Regular exercise is a sign of dedication, self worth, motivation, goal orientation, and efficiency. To a similar note, I wouldn't be likely to hire an overly skinny person, because they too look unhealthy. Obese people tend to use "skinny" to describe "healthy" and that spurs even more confusion about this subject.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBo

Laws are not the way to go . The last thing I want is pharmaland telling me I have to take drugs because they see me as "possibly sick," which is all it amounts to. Fat people have or will have blood sugar problems , some will call it aging , some will call it gout some will call it diabetes. Fat people are going to be diabetic. The fatties and the smokers and head bangers and et cetera are not ignorant , they just don't care. When the fatties find that their joints have been blown out or that they are now discovering the great world of neuropathy , they ought not be so surprised. And we should not have to pay for their care . If I ride down the middle of the freeway I know what will happen . If I gain twenty pounds I will lose my eyesight and eventually my limbs. I make the choice . I would not hire someone obese , the medical care incurred would break the bank . I would not hire someone who rides without lights or a helmet either.

October 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLen Smith

Being overweight and obesity are major risk factors for many chronic diseases for South Dakotans of all ages. When people are overweight or obese, they have more health problems and more serious health problems, in addition to higher health care costs.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterwebcam

Would this law mean that the airlines can't make an obese person buy two seats any longer?

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

I have never understood why the medical community seems to be so passive on the issue of obesity. It seems the typical family practice physician in the US is restricted from dealing with obesity either by industry principles/practices or legal concerns. For some reason they will see a patient that is clearly 50, 60 and 70 lbs overweight and not say anything because the patient did not ask. Then if the patient asks they are provided some useless information. In most cases weight loss is not a tough issue. But, it does take toughness and discipline by the patient to deal with. The most amazing thing I have recently experienced in my own family was in the case of a necessary joint replacement. It was clear to me, the premature joint deterioration was agravated by the person carrying excess weight for many years. The doctor, a recognized leader in the field, never mentioned the likely influence of weight as a contributor or that a reduction in weight would prolong the life of the new joint and the remaining original equipment joints. Many people seem much more concerned with being too thin rather being too fat. In most cases becoming to thin is not a major concern.

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Some of the older physicians I've known have told me that doctors never used to prescribe exercise for people to lose weight--I believe by this they meant exercise programs like going to the gym four or five times a week, starting a running program, etc etc. because it would make one hungrier and they would eat more. Regular exercise was probably more like not being sedentary--just moving and getting up and doing things.

Many suggested that when we went from cane sugar to corn syrup--which is the primary ingredient of cattle feed—and the main ingredient in almost everything we consume—we started to fatten up quite nicely.

Here in Arizona where I live, the native people have been devastated by diabetes and obesity—it seems everything in food is poison to their bodies. They have to work very hard, even from just a few years old, to carefully examine and consider everything the eat…

October 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBruce

Apparently a lot of people are throwing their weight behind this type of thinking. This stems from multi-culturalism, which creates more problems than it’s supposed to solve.
Also you have the Democratic idea that people need more government to control them. Thus the “sin” tax on cigarettes, alcohol and consideration of taxing sugar drinks.
Like Coke is the reason people are fat.
Doesn’t make me fat, nor Andy or Frank Schleck as they grab a Coke from the motorbike.
So we have more government because people are allowing it; and more minority groups clamoring for their “rights” diluting a society that was worth fighting for.
People are in the situation they are in because they want to be: they are not victims.
Just what are we leaving our children?

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I'm an American living in Japan, and I wanted to comment on just how different it is here with regard to this.

Japanese people are traditionally rather thin on average, so obesity is relatively new as a social problem. Obesity among young people appears to be on the rise, but is basically associated with eating too much mcdonalds. Doctors I've talked to associate a lot of health problems with a western style diet.

Since the public health insurance systems are straining under the weight of the elderly, with 22.2% of the population over 64, compared to 12.8% in the US and 16.2% in the UK, the government is desperate to cut health care expenses and increase revenues as much as possible.

One of the government's solutions is to institute fees for companies who have over a certain percentage of people diagnosed in their yearly checkup as having "metabolic syndrome".

While I believe the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome are fairly detailed, the colloquial use of the phrase just means "fat". So, in other words, the government is currently on a campaign including punitive fees for being fat.

So very different from San Francisco...

October 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterIra

Its well known that obesity is on the rise in this country. They've even re-sized women's clothing such that as current sie 8 would have been a 12 back in the 60's or 70's.
I strongly believe the reason is too much corn in our diet - in the form of chips, high fructose corn syrup etc. That and of course way too much fast food.
I've never had real weight issues, but in my 50's I found that my weight was slowly creeping up from my normal 170-175. I topped out at 184, regardless of how much exercise I got.
This April I had pretty extensive shoulder surgery and decided while recuperating, that i would try to lose some weight. For two weeks I cut out ALL sugar, pretty much did South Beach Phase 1. No beets or carrots even. I then added back in good carbs like rolled oats. . It took me 3 weeks to get down to 176. My weight has now stabilized at 173-175. No HFCS. Rarely potatoes or corn. Very little refined sugar. I don't miss these things at all.

October 25, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

Well, if a doctor can't tell you to lose weight, what's the point in seeing a doctor?

This touches upon the literal elephant in the room with the current debate in the U.S. over health care - we're on average not particularly healthy and as a result our health care costs are high. On the other hand, no U.S. citizen wants to be told what to do. The dilemma seems to be what to do when a personal choice has a public cost and that's an area no one wants to visit. So the debate has shifted to the safer ground of how to manage the costs associated with being generally unhealthy, and in that context anti-discrimination seems logical.

At some point I do hope we come around to addressing what makes health care cost so much in the first place. I'm no expert, but feel quite certain we in the U.S. would come out way ahead financially if instead of government insurance the feds simply handed out bicycles and required people to ride a few times a week.

October 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdave

This guy in the UK was 39 stone before he took up cycling to work and lost 17 stones in 17 months.

Link to Article.

Instead of spending £6000+ on gastric bypasses the NHS should be buying bikes and bike training to tackle the obesity problem.

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

I want to thank everyone for the great comments here. The previous one by Joe is inspiational, (Click on the link.) just shows what can be done by simply riding a bike on a regular basis.

October 27, 2009 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Obesity is partly self-determined, but not entirely. Putting aside medical conditions that frustrate even the most steadfast dieter-exerciser, some folks find themselves overweight and possibly obese simply because of the lives they're forced to lead. It begins in childhood when a schoolbus picks them up at the door and dumps them at the school, and VS, sometimes even prohibiting them from riding to and from school.

Obnoxious behavior toward anyone should be addressed, but "hate speech/crime" is only another way of saying some are special while most are not. Why is it worse to throw beer at someone because he's fat, but not because he just happens to be there?

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSkinny

I'm a little late to the discussion but I wanted to add my perspective since it's a bit different than everyone else's here. I'm fat. My BMI is in the obese category. I'm also an avid cyclist -- which is why I generally enjoy reading this blog. I eat vegetarian, I avoid fast food, and I eat less than many skinny people I spend time with. My doctor monitors my metabolic function because of another condition I have -- all my measures are better than average. But I'm still fat. I've come to accept that my body is going to do what it does. However, it frustrates me that other people would judge me based solely on my appearance.

If weight loss were as simple as you all say, than everyone would be slender. There's certainly enough hatred in this comment section alone to provide motivation. But for every person who manages to shed lots of weight with diet and exercise, there's someone else who can't do that. Everyone's body is different and we are far from truly understanding how obesity works. So please, have a bit of sympathy for the fat people you see and interact with.

November 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEm
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