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Friday, December 07, 2007



Surprising? Hardly.

With respect to promotion (leadership) decisions, Corporate America operates squarely within a conformist paradigm, and the prototype leader still reflects the seemingly more disciplined, attractive female.

To the extent that obesity affects self-confidence (i.e., the pyschological and, by default, the sociological effects of obesity), I am additionally unsurprised by the secondary effects that likely impact one's ability to negoiate higher salaries, or demand the recognition they may deserve.

Prejudice is alive and well. The frenzied drive to slimmer bodies continues to fuel this prejudice. And Corporate America is certainly not immune to this thinking. To the contrary, it probably (through the unsurprising results uncovered in this study) adds to the problem through a selection process that's as straightforward as choosing the student council president.

John Gibson

How can Dormilon say "The frenzied drive to slimmer bodies" in the face of the mass of evidence of one's eyes that in the US and the UK there are many more porkers. The young are especially porky, often grossly so, here in the UK.

As for prejudice? Surely being a heaving tub of blubber reflects a lack of discipline. 'Ceteris paribus' lack of obesity should be rewarded.


"A heaving tub of blubber?"

Anyway, my note on the ongoing drive to slimmer bodies reflects the success of television shows (e.g., The Biggest Loser) that highlight this frenzy, the proliferation of advertisements for diet supplements and exercise programs and the growing use of the most severe option, bariatric surgery. I did not mean to imply that this drive was a successful one.

And the prejudice will only worsen.

Re: frenzied drive to slimmer bodies... I wish! It's a frenzied drive to the extremely overweight body.

If you consider that hospital equipment, doctor's tools, and even MRI machines have to be re-designed (at great cost to all) to accommodate the obese, and that more doctors are diagnosing obesity as a physical handicap (yes, they can then get the blue parking spaces) and that airlines must accommodate them in the seats by giving them two, but get sued if they charge the extra fare, and that (in my building) they take the elevator one flight up to not walk stairs, -- the obese (who are that way by bad choices they make, not a medical condition) are driving up health costs and leaving a huge carbon footprint where they live, work, and shop. “Prejudice” might indeed be a normal (rational) response by the non-obese.

I'm sure the lawyers and doctors have found a whole new market. First the doctor determines that doughnut eater-plus is handicapped (by excessive doughnut eating) and the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe can sue everyone who even mumbles about the incredible number of very, very, very fat* people today.

How do you feel about a person who demands all these special breaks while not actually disabled? How do the disabled feel about the swelling of their ranks by over-eaters? We do not extend this special accommodation to drug users or alcoholics. Should we?

In the early 1980s a radical feminist group in Berkeley (Women against violence and pornography in media, WAVPM) answered a challenge from a local porno theatre to come up with erotic images (for hetero males) that did not demean women or reflect violence against women. They came up with a wall calendar. Every picture had glossy color image of.... FOOD! That was the beginning of “fat is a feminist issue” campaign in the feminist movement and signaled the beginning of “fat rights.” The eroticization of food over the human body revealed the primitive state we were in when it came to the politics of the body. It amazed me that radical feminists were being asked to prefer images of food to depictions human nudity and sexual practices. I think they won! very sad. This shift by feminists cost working women much ground in the equal pay for equal work cause and, for professional women, the breaking of the "glass ceiling." They (radical fems) then called the latter “bourgeois issues”. These issues should never have been set aside for a focus of defending those (women) who can't stop eating too much fatty food.

alt theory: obesity is more common in downwardly mobile social classes than among the rich. It is a form of "poor man's greed". Lacking in the means to join the shopping campaigns of the well paid, secure classes, they turn their desire to consume to food. They substitute quality with quantity and eat at drive-thrus and malls. They are taking part in that "greed is good" message that we got in the 1980s. They do not expect to be punished for doing with food what richer folks do with Hummers and flat screen TVs. BUT, they are very similar. They have no concept of restraint and see their right to consumer as God-given and constitutionally guaranteed. Which means, they don't care what you think and detest criticism. Just like greedy rich people, these greedy poor are costing us all much. Those who defend obesity are in denial about its social, economic and environmental costs, just like those who drive Hummers. They are also ignoring the impact that obese parents have on their kids. An obese Hummer driver is probably the epitome of the new America. A big F*&K you to the rest of us, with a bill to follow.


Robert Ashford

As someone who has spent countless hours exercising to compensate for a tendency towards obesity, I have little sympathy for the obese middle class and above. As for the underprivileged, the lack of education coupled with the fact that the least healthy food is usually the cheapest leaves the deck stacked mightily against them.

A Layman's Economist

I think some of the truly angry comments against the obese demonstrate that there is some real truth behind the research. Obesity displays a lack of discipline? What, only in women? Just read Liars Poker and you will see that a lot of grossly fat undisciplined men made a LOT of money on the stock market in the 80's, and were considered the "Best of Men and Capitalism." Of course, that's different, right? According to Ronald Reagan, it was, since they were greedy in the markets by pushing bad bargains in the mortgage industry.

Yes, a lot of people are getting fatter. In spite of which, the ideal of vision, especially in women, is thinner and thinner. Look at the film and fashion industry - 5'7" women who way 100 lbs - and you can't argue any different.

A lot of people are making money off of the desire for people to be thinner. Its expensive to eat healthily, unless you grow your own food. Provided you have a place to that. People living in council housing rarely have plots of safe earth in which to plant seeds.

Here are some layman's economics: A salad at A Wendy's in the US costs 6 dollars. A double patty burger meal with fries AND a coke costs 5.50. Super sized it costs 6.00. Now what would the layman economist mother do for her two small twin boys? Buy the Burger meal.

Some people here need to get a grip on their own biases, and actually understand the economics of the person they are condemning. They might have an understanding.

John Gibson

"What, only in women?"

Did I state or even imply that? No. I disapprove of obesity of both sexes, and here in Birmingham, UK, we have so many young men with large beer bellies, no necks, huge jowls.

It's so bad we are into negative real externalities territory. The alternatives are (1) bribe them to stay indoors or (2) tax them if they come out. Unfortunately having a state-funded NHS means that slimmer taxpayers have to pick up the bill eventually.

John Gibson

Incidentally, I think if you examine the historical photographic evidence I think you'll find that film and TV actresses and actors were slimmer between 1920 and 1970 (apart from special freaks like Jayne Mansfield) than they are these days.

Arthur Eckart

John Gibson, I tend to agree, obesity reflects character traits more than image to most people.

Obese, what's wrong with driving hummers? People deserve the best. Almost all the environmental problems are caused by the population explosion. So, people with more than two or three children are a problem.

A Layman's Economist

John, you were not the only one to post, and the article the bloggist posts is about women,not men. So whilest you might not differentiate on obesity, apparently it does matter in the corporate world. ( I still didn't care for what I read as a good deal of venom in what should be a very intellectual forum.)

I have looked at photographic evidence, and I work in a field where I see what goes on. Women were not thinner between 1920 and 1970, and more importantly, they were allowed to look like what nature intended them to be - women. What you are seeing is a difference in the types of over all proportions considered beautiful. ( There have also been studies done on the BMI's of these women, and the results would surprise you.) Today is a tube look versus bust and bottom with a small waist. An excellent example was Brooke Shields as a size 8, and todays models being a size 2 with no hips and precious little bust. Since nature cannot adapt at the whim of fashion, and women still are responsible for producing offspring, they must starve themselves to remove the articles that enable them to bear said offspring, to achieve the look.

Its no secret in Hollywood. Several actresses have been blunt and said that the thinnest woman gets the jobs these days. So...they all just get thinner.And thinner.

I won't go into what the main push is behind it in fashion, but it is going on.

A Layman's Economist

Mr Gibson: Ah yes, the fat people make all of us taxpayers foot the bill, don't they? Until a recent study showed that they aren't quite so costly as some would like to think. Obese people don't break their arms playing hockey, or need stitches from Rugby or Football. They don't crash their BMX bikes doing stunts,or hit trees skiing, and fall off horses. A recent study also showed that overweight people - note not grossly fat - live longer. The irony is that in countries like the US, where the 'plump' are still allowed to purchase coverage, is that they will end up covering Mr and Miss super fit healthy athlete, just as they will pick up the tab for both the grossly fat and the super athlete under the NHS.

Naturally, its OK though for the taxpayer to pick up the cleaning bill when it comes to polluting industry, Hummer buyers, and RVs. And when companies offshore to lower 'costs' in non-environmental non-regulating places like China, and the brown cloud and other pollution raise our health costs for all taxpayers, even though not all taxpayers benefit from the wonderful 'savings' that's OK too.

Look, I accept that obesity has costs to society, and it does suggest, though not prove, certain characteristics. I just don't accept the need to demonize them to level that they are, nor the need to punish women more than men for these characteristics in the corporate world.

And just so you know, I am not some obese woman who got denied a promotion. I was a flat jockey for heaven's sake, and never had to starve myself to make weight. I ate healthy, yes. Then I got tired of it, got into a good UNi, took my degrees in econ, and took a totally different path.

Nicholas Welp

Is there an observable correlation between lack of education and obesity, and a correlation between lack of education, lower wages and lower promotions? It seems likely that there is, but that wouldn't explain the thin uneducated woman making better wages than the over weight uneducated woman.


Goes to show how important confidence is.

It makes sense to me. Maybe this is one of the manifestations of the ways the 'natural system of society' protects us from the 'universal evil' of obesity.

Fat is bad. No getting away from that. Bad things naturally are shunned in the interactions of humans at all levels. Thus fat people are left behind.

Whats so hard to believe there?


I'm utterly sickened by some of the responses. All of us know thin people who eat junk food and never exercise and fat people who eat well and exercise. There isn't always a correlation.

All of us also know hard working, intelligent fat people who make great employees and bosses and leaders, thin people who don't, and vice versa.

The idea that fat people are lazy and undisciplined is just a form of negative stereotyping that has no basis in fact. It seems that many of you have "bought into" the message of commercial interests like the diet industry and the weight loss surgery industry without really considering the truth -- that people come in different shapes and sizes.

I urge you to review some of these web sites:


B. Adu

"...they don't care what you think and detest criticism" oxymoron.

But then your whole comment is a junkyard of your petty hatreds, it says more about your low standards of thought than it does about the actual subject of the article.

Here's a challenge for the oh so disciplined, comment without lowering the tone.

John Gibson

Surely, many of us extrapolate that, for ourselves, one more cream-cake, holding exercise constant, makes us fatter. Similarly, 10 miles more walking per week, holding cream-cakes constant, makes us slimmer. From there it's difficult not to take the next step and assume the porky are ill-disciplined. I must confess I feel the same way about obesity and many people feel about smoking (smokers tend not to hang around for many years of pension receipts and, in the UK, pay lots of extra tax).

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