“There are lots of examples of prejudice against fat people,” Bogart says.
But it’s unjustified.
That’s because weight is a complex issue and simplistic suggestions that it’s caused by overeating or laziness obscure rather than provide real answers.
“We are very hard on fat people,” he says.
“One survey revealed that something like 90% of obese people who have managed to lose weight would rather go blind than regain it.
“It is very difficult for most fat people to lose and maintain any weight that may be lost,” he said.
And fat is becoming more of a societal issue because of “the increase in rates of it over the last decades and attendant health and other costs.”
Bogart, in his book published by Oxford University Press,
Regulating Obesity? Government, Society, and Questions of Health, suggests society doesn’t understand weight properly.
“There is much debate not only about solutions but in terms of the nature of the problem itself.”
And he says conclusions about the effect of fat are changing.
For example, while at one time overweight people were thought to die prematurely new research shows “moderately overweight” people have the lowest mortality rates and “thin people have higher ones.”
Bogart said authorities have also been too quick to legislate to curb people’s intake of, say, junk food.
An example is a tax imposed in Denmark to discourage eating and drinking non- nutritious foods.
But that backfired.
“The Danes just crossed the border into Germany and bought that food and drink in that country,” he said.
“The level of evasion was so high that the Danes have repealed the tax.”
Bogart says that “despite claims to the contrary,” regulation is “a limited tool for reshaping human behaviour.”
Instead the emphasis should be placed on healthy living.
“We should focus on interventions that promote nutritious eating and drinking and active lifestyles with weight loss being clearly secondary. “
But there is a role for legislation.
This is to prevent society from treating fat people differently and preventing them from having the same opportunities as anyone else.
“I suggest that we may need to amend human rights legislation to protect fat people from prejudice.”