Monday, September 29, 2003

Negative attitudes to obesity

A new study complains that doctors erroneously assume that overweight people eat too much or take too little exercise.

'On both implicit and explicit measures, health professionals associated the stereotypes lazy, stupid and worthless with obese people,' said Dr Marlene Schwartz of Yale University. 'The stigma of obesity is so strong that even those most knowledgeable about the condition infer that obese people have blameworthy behavioural characteristics that contribute to their problem, i.e. being lazy,' she said.

Well, OK, so some people have genetic problems that lead them to accumulate weight more than most. And it is true that all too often, the normal variation in body weight is reinterpreted in a pejorative way today. However, for the vast majority of people, if they are overweight, it is because they consume too much food relative to the amount of exercise they take, and their body shape is something they can control should they choose to exercise their willpower.

Being 20 or 30 percent over some ideal weight is pretty much harmless. But saying to people who are vastly overweight, and who have major health issues because of their diet, that it isn't something they can control is a problem.

BBC NEWS | Health | Fat equals lazy, say doctors


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