Perhaps not surprisingly, the proportion of people who said they felt stigmatized because of their weight rose with their level of obesity. While 6 percent of people who classified themselves as overweight said they felt stigmatized, that number rose to 20 percent and 34 percent for people who were obese or morbidly obese, respectively.
Stigma affected the working lives of many respondents. Almost one in 10 overweight people said they believe their weight may have cost them a job or promotion, as did 17 percent of the obese and 35 percent of the morbidly obese.
Those perceptions may well be rooted in reality, as businesses move to save health-care dollars or improve their image by factoring obesity into their hiring practices. For example, one hospital in Victoria, Texas, made headlines recently by deciding to not hire employees with a BMI higher than 35, citing reasons of personal appearance.
"Some employers may feel that being overweight is associated with being uneducated, lazy, not as ambitious or not as disciplined," said Sharon Zarabi, a nutritionist and fitness trainer at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Zarabi, who counsels severely obese people before and after weight loss surgery, said that many of her clients reported having been ridiculed for their size.
While one-quarter of all of the people polled thought that such employment policies were "fair," only 14 percent of those who are morbidly obese thought so.
Carrying excess weight may take a toll on social lives, too. For example, 22 percent of the morbidly obese said they felt they had been left out of social gatherings because of their weight, and a similar number said they had felt discriminated against while being seated at a theater or restaurant, or on a bus, train or plane.
Many of those polled thought it was still acceptable to make hurtful remarks about a person's weight. For example, while 61 perce
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