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Global trends: people with excess weight will be paid less

26.09.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin
excess weight

In Pemex, a Mexican state-owned petroleum company, bonuses are given only to those employees whose body mass index and waist size correspond to the norm.

Discrimination based on excess weight is gaining momentum. In the West, a parallel has already been drawn between the presence of extra kilograms and the market value of an employee. Several modern studies have linked excess weight to low incomes, especially in women. The reasoning on the part of the employer is based on common stereotypes. Excess weight equates with poor health. If the employee has poor health he/she often seeks medical advice which means that the health insurance, paid by the employer, becomes more expensive.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, moderately excessive weight was considered a symbol of health and prosperity. Now the situation has changed dramatically. Rotund people have become the object of ridicule and insults, and a good level of fitness has become a sign of status and high income – such people eat well and visit the gym. Bullying and discrimination due to excess weight is called fat-shaming (“fat”+”shame”).

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Being overweight is associated with vices and disadvantages:

  • lack of willpower (“can not control him/herself”)
  • laziness (“lack of physical activity suggests the individual is lazy”)
  • poor hygiene (“if the person is lazy, then he/she may not even wash!”)
  • gluttony (“weight gain was caused by overeating”)
  • stupidity (“Don’t you understand? Eat little—lose weight, eat a lot—get fat”)

Exposing these “vices”, fat-shamers are sure that they are doing a good deed, and that they are the ones who will be able to open the eyes of fat people and save the world from ugliness. But are they really concerned about the health of others? Have they ever thought that they can insult people with their inappropriate remarks? There is a kind of discrimination—“objectification”, which is the act of treating another person as a thing, or an object for which there is neither pity nor regret. Fat people often face such discrimination. Doctors are also “everyday” fat-shamers. People wearing XL clothing often hear “You have to lose weight” from whichever specialist they consult.

Yet doctors’ recommendations, in contrast to empty criticism, have a considerable amount of truth. Obesity really contributes to the development of serious diseases. These include primarily diabetes, heart failure and diseases of the locomotor apparatus. According to the RLMS HSE, the average BMI per population of Russia for 1994–2014 exceeded 25, i.e. in general, the average Russian is overweight. Together with Russia, the group of countries with a high average BMI (25-26.9) also includes Canada, Israel, Brazil, Austria, the states of the Middle East and the Scandinavian countries. The highest average BMI (27 and above) includes the populations of the United States, Cuba, Argentina, the United Kingdom, Australia, Greece, Mexico and Germany.

In some countries, the state, with the help of employers, is trying to stimulate weight loss among its citizens. In Japan, there is a law that obliges residents aged over 40 years to measure their waist size every year. In cases where the norm is of exceeding the norm, people are necessarily referred to a nutritionist. Workers of the Mexican Pemex with a BMI of more than 25 and a waist size of more than 90 cm for men and more than 80 cm for women are deprived of an annual bonus of MXN 5,500 (about USD 274). Given the global trend of supporting a healthy lifestyle, this example may well be picked up by global corporations.

The situation is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is undesirable to discriminate against people because of their non-compliance with generally accepted standards, but on the other hand, the idea is noble. If you do not see the established norms of BMI and waist size as discrimination, the awareness of the need for change can be a good motivator for working on yourself and achieving weight loss. It is better to be guided not by public opinion, but by your own degree of personal comfort. If you do not feel well in your weight and you have shortness of breath and health problems, you have a reason to think about changing your behavior and consulting a specialist. If you are healthy and your life is beautiful— just enjoy it!