First thing this morning, I saw the depressing press release from Yale researchers funded by the Rudd Institute that says even medical professionals carry serious prejudices against fat people. You know what I mean. Fat people are stupid. Fat people are lazy. They lack a moral center. Etc. Etc.
And that merely means medical folks are not unlike regular folks. Like our bosses and coworkers, our teachers, our landlords, our pastors, our families. We wish they weren’t as biased as the rest, armed as they are with more information.
But they are.
Then I went looking for the Rudd Institute, learning that there is, in fact, a whole entire INSTITUTE, whose mission is “to document, understand and ameliorate the bias, stigma and discrimination associated with obesity.”
How’s that for great news? Don’t you just want to kiss this institute? I do. I want to paint on pink, frosty lipstick and give this institute a big squishy kiss on its brick fa‡ade.
Institutes like this will document and report on our biases. And that will force changes. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but certainly for our children and theirs. And that is good. Because of course, having extra weight is not always a problem, but it can be. That is, it can be a medical problem, but it is not a character flaw. The prevalence of the character flaw theory is what stops overweight folks from getting help when they want it or need it. It shames people from the gym, it stops people from seeking medical care, it makes folks think twice about doing a lot of things that they should never have to hesitate over. It’s just not fair.
Shifting in and out of the pages of the Rudd Institute site, I found names of people I really admire who are on the list of the researchers they support, including Dr. Kelly Brownell, whose book, “Food Fight,” is another of those must-reads for those of us bent on understanding how food manufacturing and packaging is making us ill and fat.
Then I found that one of the tests the researchers use, the IAT, Implicit Attitudes Test, is available online. We can take it ourselves.
So, I took it.
This is a word association test, which needs about 15-20 minutes to perform (or less, I suppose). It’s meant to be performed as quickly as possible, and I wasn’t fast enough (I get a little freaked out when I have to tell my right from my left in a hurry) so my results were “inconclusive.” I did, however show a slight tendency to associate fat people with anxiousness. (Smile. Like test anxiety?) So that is my bias: the bias of a woman who has known and experienced fat bias? The fat bias of a nervous eater?
I don’t want to screw up the research, so won’t discuss or reveal any of the questions, except to say that a couple of them dropped my jaw. Good questions, but painful ones.
At any rate, the test is for the general population, not meant specifically for a population of overweight people. It can, however show us that fat folks, too, have biases about weight, and they can affect our work at losing weight, getting fit, and enjoying life, liberty, the big pursuit.
Want to share your views on this subject, or raise a discussion? The Institute has a “Talk Back” section that needs more traffic. Post your thoughts, experiences, concerns about fat bias there.
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