Fattism in the workplace: reader responses to our ‘F-word’ obesity feauture

Problem of size is far bigger than just focusing on the fat

I find myself having to take issue with the headline ‘Government under pressure to make fattism unlawful’. In my view, the right term to use in this context should be ‘sizeism’.

The logic for this is that, just as race legislation protects not only members of ethnic minority groups and as age legislation now protects workers in all age groups, so surely any prospective legislation in this area would have to be designed to protect individuals of any body type – whether they be fat, thin or, like myself, just middling – from workplace discrimination of any kind.

From a professional perspective, at some stage a line will have to be drawn beyond which more anti-discrimination measures no longer make sense.

If we are to observe new legislation in the size arena, can legislation on hair colour, height or ‘baldism’ be far behind?

Martin Moore
Head of personnel and organisation development, Post Office

Personal responsibility has to kick in at some point

“We are living in Britain where it’s almost impossible to live a healthy life,” said Anne Diamond in your ‘F-word’ feature.

No, no, no, Anne – what self-justifying, deluded rubbish.

Obesity may well not be just a matter of personal choice – education, opportunity and poverty are all part of the complex mix – and government and employers need to get involved now as the problem just keeps growing.

But for the vast majority of those who are unhealthily overweight, there is an (often significant) element of personal responsibility involved in the choices they have made for themselves.

Statements such as the one above present opinion as fact, and that helps no-one. It seems to be saying: “Hey, you live in the UK so don’t worry, it’s not your fault.”

It’s not impossible, almost or otherwise, to live a healthy life in Britain today. Walk a bit more, eat a bit differently, drink less alcohol, drink more water – you don’t have to go the whole Gillian McKeith to be healthy.

So, please, don’t discredit the undoubtedly valid comments being made about discrimination with lazy generalisations such as this, as it does no-one any favours.

Janet Mckenzie
Reward and benefits manager, Arqiva

Acknowledging their own problem is the first step

The first step in helping someone to lose weight isto get them to acknowledge their own responsibilityto make choices that will help them.

Fitness professionals, health professionals and employers can provide the tools (eg, exercise facilities, healthy food, nutritional advice), but only the individual can choose the lifestyle they want to follow.

While fully supporting the concept of a healthy workplace, to say that tackling obesity is the responsibility of employers denies the role of the individual in this.

And the most ridiculous comment I’ve read in a long time is the statement that “we are living in a Britain where it’s almost impossible to live a healthy life”. Go to any supermarket and you will see the shelves brimming with healthy food that wasn’t available a few years ago, and in every town and city there are sports and leisure facilities to cater for every interest, while women’s (and men’s) magazines are crammed with advice on how to lead a healthy life.

People turn their lives around by choosing to take responsibility for their health and by getting help from their employers, personal trainers, doctors, dieticians, etc.

But ultimately, they succeed by not blaming others, and by deciding for themselves that they are not a ‘victim’.

Eleanor London
Fitness instructor and personal trainer

Huge thank you for belly laughs on front page

Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the ironic cover of Personnel Today. The headline ‘Government under pressure to make fattism unlawful’ was so well contrasted by the cartoon graphic of the Michelin Man, who had clearly undergone liposuction and an eight-year fitness regime to avoid discrimination in the marketplace. Had hysterics for most of the morning – thank you.

Alison Rodwell,
Senior HR adviser, UK HRO HR team, Hewitt Associates Outsourcing

Bad attitudes as harmful as being overweight

Further to your ‘fattism’ coverage, I had a horrifying experience under new management at a spa resort in Texas.

My new (male) manager called me into a meeting and said: “I don’t know if your weight is an issue with you, but it is here.

“I personally don’t mind people of your size, but at least you wear large enough nice clothes to cover it all up. You don’t let it all hang out.” He didn’t stop there. “My wife had gastric bypass surgery, and it worked for her. Maybe you should consider it,” he said.

I left the company because I was too horrified to return. Now I can’t eat, which is a good thing. But my confidence sucks.

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