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Many Obese Americans Struggle With Stigma, Discrimination, Poll Finds
Date:8/24/2012

nt thought it was "very" or "extremely" offensive to make racial slurs, only 39 percent felt the same about weight-related comments -- including almost half of those who were themselves morbidly obese.

That finding didn't surprise one medical expert.

"Although many deny it, as in this study, there is enough scientific evidence that weight bias -- which is more prevalent than race, sex, color, religious belief [bias] -- is widespread and very resistant to change," said Dr. Sarita Dhuper, director of pediatric cardiology and executive director of the "Live Light Live Right" Pediatric Obesity Program at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City.

She said many people don't realize that each person's vulnerability to obesity differs greatly, and in a society where high-calorie food is so abundant, "everyone is susceptible to developing obesity."

Dhuper added that "making people pay for being obese is like saying it is their entire fault and they have an ability to reverse it. This is still debatable. Obesity may be preventable but unlikely to be reversible without drastic surgical methods for most people."

And she said that, over time, stigma based on weight or any other factor can have tragic consequences.

"Dealing with bias in the workplace, health-care settings, school and home can lead to internalization and stress, depression, anger, aggression and even suicidal ideation," Dhuper said.

More information

Learn more about fighting obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Humphrey Taylor, chairman, The Harris Poll; Sharon Zarabi, R.D., nutritionist/fitness trainer, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Sarita Dhuper, M.D., director, pediatric cardiology, and executive director, "Live Light Live Right" Pediatric Obesity Program, Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, Ne
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