Rebecca Puhl, director of research and weight stigma initiatives at the Rudd Center, is quoted on studying weight bias in The Toronto Star:
[It’s] one of the easiest [bias] fields to research as the prejudices are so widespread and socially acceptable that people easily admit to them.
This is a form of bias that is so prevalent, society accepts it unchallenged […] It’s a social justice issue and a public health problem …
A few years ago the ABC News piece ‘Weight-ism’ More Widespread than Racism discussed both Puhl’s research on fat bias and that it’s not easy to just “stop being fat”:
“We place a lot of emphasis on personal responsibility for body weight,” [Puhl] said. […] “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.”
“That has compelled a number of expert panels, like the National Institutes of Health, to conclude that we really can’t expect you to lose more than 10 percent of your body weight and be able to keep that off.”
For a 300-pound man, she notes, that’s a mere 30 pounds, and he’s still overweight, unless he’s nearly seven feet tall.
For much more detail on the state of fat bias research, check out the The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update, co-authored by Puhl. It discusses weight bias research in employment, healthcare settings, education, the media, and the consequences of weight stigma. It discusses both perceived bias in surveys of fat people and experimental research.
Typically, experimental studies ask participants to evaluate a fictional applicant’s qualifications for a job, where his or her weight has been manipulated (through written vignettes, videos, photographs or computer morphing). Roehling and colleagues recently conducted a meta-analysis of 32 experimental studies investigating weight discrimination in employment settings. […] Across studies, it was demonstrated that overweight job applicants and employees were evaluated more negatively and had more negative employment outcomes compared to nonoverweight applicants and employees.
The Fatosphere is well aware of fat bias in healthcare. We know it can be hard to dress professionally as a fat person, especially in extended sizes. But I’m not sure we realize how much we lose in other ways, and we’re so used to it that it can be hard to see it. (Are fish conscious of water?)
More information: The Canadian Obesity Network and The Rudd Center provide good information and are working against fat bias, but I can’t help feeling that they’re handicapped by their own pro-weight-loss attitudes. Naafa’s FAQ is all about weight bias.