As teenagers, our job is to experiment, make mistakes, and be judgmental. We find ourselves casting stares upon our classmates, envying their toned waistline or clear skin. Many teenagers jump to conclusions when noticing someone’s physical appearance. They assume that people are fat because they eat too much, or that skinny people don’t eat at all.
It is possible for someone to exercise on a daily basis, eat healthy, and still be overweight. Unfortunately thanks to media portrayals of waist thin actresses and peer pressure to look your best at all times, many teenagers fall prey to the belief that there is no such thing as ‘too skinny’ when it comes to their body image and self-esteem. Some people think they need to change how they look or act to feel good about themselves. Actually all they need to do is change the way they see their body and how they think of themselves. Easier said than done.
“Weight discrimination has been documented for decades, but more research is showing how prevalent it is in recent years,” says Rebecca Pulh, co-author of the survey and coordinator of weight stigma initiatives at Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. This same study shows that discrimination against overweight people – particularly women – is as common as racial discrimination, and that women are twice as likely to be the victim of weight bias as men.
Weight bias is far reaching and affects job hiring, job advancement, salary potential, college acceptance, the availability and price of current fashion trends, and most recently the cost of airline seats. The biased attitudes of medical professionals who treat overweight people have even been documented.
What does this mean for our society? How can a society’s perception of perfection, and body image change? There are no easy answers. However, a study of racial and gender bias may help us understand and identify the tools we need to begin to overcome today’s prevalent issue of weight discrimination.
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