I went to a book store today and was browsing the books in the teen section. A lot of them dealt with anorexia nervosa. Obviously this is a serious illness that can result in death. As I read a few of the book jackets, I got to thinking about how discrimination against the overweight pervades our society. Although families vary in the views that they express to their children and some parents isolate their children from society to a certain extent, for the most part, American children are raised in a culture that sees overweight people as somehow not as good as thin people. The obese are often portrayed as funny, stupid, sloppy, lazy, or worse. Overweight people are under-represented in the entertainment industry and in many other professions.
When I went to school, every one knew who the fat kids were. They were often taunted in elementary school. As they got older, they were more likely to take on the roll of class clown, and in high school, overweight boys were the ones I most saw getting beat up on by bullies. I was at the most fifteen pounds overweight in high school, and yet, I felt that I was horribly fat. Now that I fall into the group of the morbidly obese, I wonder if my path might have been different if I hadn't dealt with so much weight related stress and obsession back then.
Looking at those books about anorexia in the bookstore, I couldn't help but wonder how much discrimination against those who are fat contributes to eating disorders especially in teens who are very vulnerable to peer pressure and emotional problems. It also made me want to spread the word that obesity discrimination is wrong. Yes, you should encourage children in healthy habits including eating nutritious foods and being active. No you should not encourage your children to obsess about their weight or to treat anyone differently because of their weight! Be careful what you say and what attitudes you express. Someone who looks up to you might be listening or picking up your attitude. Also, don't be afraid to speak up if you hear someone expressing negative opinions about someone based on his or her weight. Research has shown that just one conversation can change someone's view on the obese.