Many Would Rather Be Anything but Obese

In our current environment, she notes, it's particularly difficult to keep those extra pounds off. Junk food is everywhere, urban sprawl forces us to drive instead of walk, diets fail, and we get discouraged. So we settle down to watch a ball game on television, surrounded by comfort food.

It's enough to make a body give up, and that, Schwartz says, is exactly what is happening. That doesn't mean there's nothing that can help. Lifestyle changes make a difference, she says, and if people can take steps to become more physically active, and more careful about what they eat, then some of those pounds can probably come off.

First, she insists, we've got to change our attitudes about obesity.

"For there to be a change, we have to stop blaming the individual," Schwartz said. "We've been blaming people for a long time and it's not working. So we need to do something else, and what I would suggest is focus on the environment, clean up the environment and make it so that every time you turn around there's a healthy food option and it's hard to find junk food. Change our environment so that it's easy to walk and it's easy to get physical activity in your everyday life."

"I just don't think yelling more at people is going to get us anywhere," she said.

Given prevailing attitudes about being overweight, though, change is not likely to come quickly or easily.

The study, also by Lenny R. Vartanian and Kelly D. Brownell of Yale and Brian A. Nosek of the University of Virginia, reveals strong bias against people who are fat, and that occurs across all ages and body shapes.

Of the 4,283 participants, 30 percent (1,285) said they would rather be divorced than obese, 25 percent (1,070) said they would rather be unable to have children, 15 percent (642) said they would rather be severely depressed, and 14 percent (600) said they would rather be alcoholic.

Most drew the line at some sacrifices, but 10 percent (428) said they would rather have an anorexic child than an obese child, and 8 percent (342) said they would rather have a learning-disabled child than an obese child.

That level of stigmatism drives some toward depression, which can lead to eating disorders, which only worsens the problem.

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