What are the primary size-related issues facing the UK today?
There is much press coverage about the current obesity awareness and health related issues surrounding obesity. Some doctors are proclaiming that the obesity problem in the UK will cosy the National Health Service (NHS) long-term due to the diseases caused by obesity are expensive to treat. On June the 14 2004 it was reported that top obesity clinics were being closed due to running out of money (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3803457.stm
). There is also talks of the government setting targets within the NHS to tackle obesity (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3791349.stm
). However Kim Howell, Transport Minister, warns about the ‘hysteria’ following a report released of the government’s failure to tackle obesity (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3755875.stm
In the Select Committee of Public Accounts Ninth Report – Tackling Obesity in England they conclude that obesity “should complete their evaluation of local health authority improvement programmes, and ensure that those for 2002-03 set targets and timetables for taking action to address the needs of overweight and obese people.” They go on to give examples on who and how this should be done. They also outline that people from the lower economic class are more likely to have problems with obesity. In the UK to eat a ‘healthy’ diet costs money. People who are on benefits or on low pay cannot afford to eat as healthy as they would wish. Most of the cheaper affordable foods for this group are processed foods, which are high in fats, sugars and salts. There was no outline in the report on how this problem can be tackled (parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk
Recently in the tabloids there was a report of a three-year-old child who died and the reports blamed it on her size, she was 6 stone (84lbs). The fingers were being pointed at the parents and they were being blamed for the child for being very over weight. This reinforced people’s negative attitudes towards obesity and gave more fuel for them to fire at the fat people and started more debate about junk food and parental responsibility. It however turned out that the child had a genetic defect, which caused her to feel hungry all the time, and her body was telling her she was starving. The condition could have been treated, but it was not discovered until after the child died. The negative reporting caused no end to suffering to the parents who were already suffering from the loss of their child (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3789357.stm
Much of the media coverage is published in a negative and prejudice light, women’s and men’s magazines always have slimming or body image articles in them, there is a growing rate of publishing in magazines of diets and the perceived ‘healthy good looking’ body. There is a barrage of diets being flooded on the market; the recent hype is of the ‘Atkins Diet’. There are critics opposed to the Atkins style diet over the long term, they can cause kidney damage, thin bones and constipation, raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of diabetes and an early heart attack. As many as 1 in 4 people in the UK are dieting, as shown in the poll by analysts Mintel. 2 in 5 being women and 1 in 6 being men (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/3454099.stm
How widespread is size discrimination in the UK and what forms does it (the discrimination) take?
There is much stigma in the UK for being fat. People are perceived as thick, stupid, dirty and lazy. People are being marginalized in the work place because they are being judged as being too fat to be of any benefit to the work place. It is not their skills that are being judged but their looks. Dianah Worman, adviser on diversity and equality at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, believes that discrimination towards the overweight and obese is a growing problem in the UK. She says 'Employers get very worried if people are either too thin or too large - size is an issue, but it's just not a topic that's out in the open.’
Other ways in which people are being decimated against are through the use of negative images in advertising such as the recent campaign by the World Cancer Research Fund UK, whereby they have used a negative image of a fat person to promote their campaign. This sort of negative promotion of fat people leads to constant discrimination and reinforcement of societies attitudes and prejudices towards fat people. This also leads on to setting standards of acceptability within the UK society and promoting the learnt concepts that fat people are bad.
The value of thinness is being set as a cultural bias and perpetuates prejudice and discrimination towards fat people in the UK. The value of ‘health’ is being used as a ‘whipping stick’ to beat fat people and they are being stereotyped as unhealthy. This discrimination is supported by the diet industry and the beauty industry, which portrays the fat person as unhealthy, unattractive, asexual, weak-willed, lazy and gluttonous. These damming attitudes lead to the person feeling discriminated against and that has an effect on their mental health.
Clothing for fat people in the UK is a huge problem. There are very few high street outlets for fat people. The clothing that is on offer is often smaller sizes upsized and not designed for the larger person. Much of the clothing is poorly fitting and really unsuitable to the fat person. The cost is greater and the quality poor. There is one main outlet for larger females, but on average they do not always stock the larger sizes. The problem for males is greater as there are very few outlets countrywide.
What goals do you think Big People UK should set for itself to combat the problem?
- To raise public awareness of Big People UK.
- To start looking at getting articles published, in the press and magazines, to raise awareness of size discrimination.
- To contact government departments and MP’s raising awareness.
- Look at promotion of positive attitudes, dispelling myths and prejudices.
- Encourage others to join us and make the voice of Big People UK greater and louder
- Reduce the last socially accepted form of prejudice.