December 19, 2014
Well according to the European Court of Justice it could well be it appears.
Could be? That doesn’t sound very certain does it?
And that is the whole point. Obesity is unhelpfully defined by BMI, and we all know that using BMI (Body Mass Index) as an indicator of health is just not effective, so in effect this new ruling is ludicrous because the definition itself is flawed.
This is all about the case of a Danish childminder who claimed he was sacked for being fat, he claimed his obesity was a disability and his employers acted unlawfully by discriminating against him…the thing is I don’t want to comment specifically on this individual case because I am not an expert on obesity, or disability and definitely not the law. But what I am an expert on is motivating and mobilising overweight women to do more exercise and for them to be the best that they can be, and I took great pleasure in explaining this to a Sky News producer who called on Thursday to see if I would come into the studio to talk about the issue.
Now originally I was going to be on the sofa with Eamon Holmes discussing my Too Fat to Run campaign, which could have been quite interesting…but in the end I featured live (YES LIVE) on the evening news alongside a lawyer debating the broader issue.
So…do I think obesity is a disability? Well no generally I don’t, although I recognise that for some individuals it may well be the case, but I do believe that many people feel discriminated and by default disabled by their weight, or even their fear of gaining weight and that for many of us huge parts of our lives are affected and impaired by this cloud of doom. For me this is more about attitudes to obesity and how overweight people are treated in life (and by the media), than it is about morbidly obese people who are having specific issues in the workplace. which is what my opening statement was when asked for my views
Overweight people are normally treated in one of 3 ways, they are either mocked, shamed or pitied.
And this case just highlights this.
“Obesity is not a disability. You are still able to walk to the fridge and shove half of it in your face”
But on a more useful note there was so much I wanted to say yesterday while I had that platform but time was limited…so it’s just as well I have this blog really then.
So what else do I think?
I have real concerns about labelling obese people as disabled, because I am at present on the obese/overweight cusp and I sure as hell do not feel disabled. But I accept there are individuals who do have limited mobility, or impairments caused or related to their weight, and of course these individuals may need additional support…but frustratingly once again we are not looking at the complex psychological aspects of weight gain, barriers to exercise or the dangerous dieting industries that fuel obesity, and instead are just playing the blame game again.
Most overweight people I meet take full responsibility for their health and their bodies, some choose to stay big, others find it hard to get smaller, most are on some kind of crusade to find balance…I don’t care much either way, because my focus is not on weight loss but on health gain and the ultimate pursuit of happiness.
Watching the footage back last night at home, I chuckled to myself because in many ways I wasn’t directly answering the questions the news readers were throwing at me…but remember ladies I am on a mission to challenge negative stereotypes here, and to raise the profile of exercise for overweight women so there’s no point in me giving my thoughts on this case…because who am I? Just some fat chick that runs marathons, and luckily the lawyer lady covered the legal aspects of things quite nicely. But what I will say is that every time I get this opportunity to speak in front of the media I will challenge them and put a different spin on the debate to get people thinking, because after all much of this is about mindset.
One in three of us in the UK are now overweight or obese, but that is not as shocking as the fact that 70% of us do not do the recommended amount of exercise each week suggested by the government…so this is not just about “the fatties”, this is about employers doing their bit too and all of us being more active.
In 2015 I hope to see more large corporations taking responsibility for their staffs wellbeing, making physical activity part of their culture, supporting staff to play sport or take up active travel. Trust me if they don’t watch out employers will have a lot more to worry about than making adjustments to doors and chairs, and they won’t be able to avoid employing overweight people in the first place because it seems we are all heading that way anyway.
What do you think guys? Is obesity a disability…or is this just a stupid question to be asking in the first place?