The Obesity Bias – Discrimination Against Overweight People

Much emphasis is placed on the health risks associated with being overweight or obese, but the social stigma can be just as harmful.

Despite the popular adage, many books do face judgment by their covers, and overweight and large individuals often have to endure deep-seeded animosity and negative stereotypes that can result in bullying at school, workplace discrimination and low self-esteem.

You probably know that obesity is bad for your health, but it’s also very bad for your life.

Bias At School

No one wants to be known as “the fat kid” at school. Overweight children face a slew of challenges as they grow up that have nothing to do with the physical difficulty of performing sports or the many illnesses that accompany obesity such as asthma, sleep apnea and diabetes.

Overweight children are more like to face bullying and isolation among their peers. Even though school officials continue to crack down on bullying and preach acceptance, children and teens can still be incredibly cruel. Often, overweight students are targeted and face open hostility and social rejection.

It’s no surprise that research shows that overweight kids and teens tend to have lower self-esteem, underperform academically, and rate themselves less intelligent then their slimmer peers.

In other words, starting out life overweight can be a crushing blow to a child’s self worth that can have lifelong repercussions.

Bias At Work

As if surviving high school as an overweight teen weren’t difficult enough, research shows that the workplace can be just as precarious for overweight adults.

Studies have found hiring biases against overweight workers. Often, obese people are associated with words like “sloppy”, “dumb”, “slow”, “lazy” and “undisciplined.” Even if these perceptions are not true of a specific person, the unconscious bias of coworkers and employers can negatively affect an overweight person’s opportunities for promotions and career growth.

Obesity really can hurt your bottom line. Overweight workers tend to earn less than their average-weight co-workers, even when they are doing the same job. They may also face workplace harassment and ridicule.

Bias Hurts

The bias against fat is widespread throughout society, and the net result is that many overweight and obese individuals suffer from ongoing discrimination and stigmatization in almost every sector of their lives. Social attitudes have a strong negative impact on the quality of life for these individuals. Depression, self-blame and eating disorders are the common among the overweight.

When the pounds start to add up, it’s not only your health you’re putting in jeopardy, but also your overall well-being.

Learn more about the dangers of obesity.

Jessica Bennett is a freelance writer with over six years of experience. She has a professional background in marketing and public relations and a strong interest in the fields of health and wellness. As an athlete herself, Jessica strives to incorporate into her own life the same fitness and nutritional advice she advocates for in her writing.

Jessica writes for the  health website Belly Shape Up!

Jessica Bennett

Jessica Bennett is a freelance writer with over six years of experience creating website copy, press releases, blog posts, articles, newsletters, short stories and more. She has a professional background in marketing and public relations and a strong interest in the fields of health and wellness. Jessica is also the head writer for Enjoy Dark Chocolate, an informative website about dark chocolate.

6 thoughts on “The Obesity Bias – Discrimination Against Overweight People

  • August 26, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Please! It’s deep-seated, not deep-seeded!

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  • November 16, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Hi Jessica,

    This is so true! I think that this topic needs to be discussed.

    I didn’t realize there was bias in a person’s salary because of weight.

    Thanks for sharing this topic and I hope that it gets more discussion!

    Take care,


  • November 16, 2010 at 8:25 am

    I think that the studies you point to are significant in their implications, but I think the important point here is not that we need to learn more about the dangers of obesity, but rather the dangers of weight-bias. If a person was being discriminated against by way of bullying, harassment, being underpaid, etc. due to their skin color or religion or sexuality, I would hope that we would not be pointing out the “danger” of being of a certain background. There is s misconception that anyone can avoid overweight and obesity through “willpower.” We need to focus on helping our children and peers understand that discrimination is NOT okay and how they can treat all beings, regardless of size, with respect.

    • November 16, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      THANK YOU, Dr. Solomon!!!

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:27 pm

      Hi Ashley, I agree with you that it’s important to help our children and peers understand that discrimination is not okay. Everyone regardless of size deserves to be treated with respect. At the same time, I think it’s important not to discount the numerous adverse health consequences associated with obesity.


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