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ABC News: Weight Discrimination is 'Spiraling Upward'

     Discrimination is a problem this country has faced throughout its history. People have been singled out for various characteristics they could not change – ethnicity or origin, color, race or sex.

 

     As discrimination due to those traits is becoming less common in American society, ABC News tackled a new discrimination – weight discrimination – and blamed the food industry and government for the problem.

 

     “As a result, the researchers contend, weight discrimination is spiraling upward, and that's a dangerous trend that could add fuel to the obesity epidemic,” former Los Angeles Times science writer Lee Dye wrote for ABC.com on April 2.  

 

     “Weight discrimination ‘occurs in employment settings and daily interpersonal relationships virtually as often as race discrimination, and in some cases even more frequently than age or gender discrimination,’ the researchers report in the current issue of the International Journal of Obesity,” continued Dye in his report on a new study.

 

     Unlike other discriminatory elements that exist in society, weight in some cases is something an individual can change, although there are other uncontrollable factors that contribute to an individual’s weight – like genetics and some diseases. But, according to the ABC article, weight problems aren’t just the fault of individuals – rather the food industry for making some foods “accessible” and “cheap.”

 

     “We live in a very toxic food environment,” Rebecca Puhl, lead author of the report said to ABC News. “We make it very easy for people to be unhealthy. Unhealthy foods, or junk foods, are accessible, cheap and engineered to taste very, very good. Healthy foods, like produce, are not as accessible, and are more expensive.”

 

     Puhl even blamed the importance placed on personal responsibility for propping up “our billion-dollar diet industry.”

 

     “We place a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility for body weight,” she said. “Our billion-dollar diet industry is founded on that premise. Your weight is modifiable. But that does not reflect the current state of science. We know from hundreds of randomized clinically controlled trials that it's very difficult to sustain weight loss over time with our existing treatment methods.”

 

     Dye didn’t include any experts who disagreed with Puhl’s findings or anyone from the food industry to respond to her remarks about "toxic food."

 

     Dye concluded that discrimination will occur regardless, but blamed the government – specifically federal law – for not having definitive language against it.


     “So people who are overweight, regardless of the cause, are blamed for their excesses and it’s OK to discriminate against them, at least according to federal law and cultural norms,” wrote Dye.