With this surprising new survey, scientists confirm: fat discrimination is real

fat guy, chair, waiting, nervousThere are a lot of things that change in life after a person has bariatric surgery, and today – 13 months out and 165 pounds down, and weighing in at a normal BMI for quite literally the first time in my life – I’m only now beginning to realize how much of life I missed out on, hauling around all that weight for all those years.

Turns out, one of those things I missed out on might’ve been a job.

A new study from a French outfit, detailed in story by Reuters reporter Lisa Rapaport, shows that people who had bariatric surgery had a better chance of being employed two years after the operation than they did before the operation.

From Rapaport’s piece:

Researchers followed 238 patients who had obesity surgery between 2010 and 2015. Before the procedures, 158 of them, or 66 percent, had full-time jobs; two years later 199, or 84 percent, were employed full-time.

“Our study shows positives changes in employment status two years after bariatric surgery in a (severely) obese patient population,” said senior study author Dr. Fabian Reche, a surgeon and professor of medicine with Grenoble Alps University Hospital in France.

“This positive change is more obvious for women, who are more discriminated against than men for work, because of their obesity,” Reche said by email.

Wow. There it is, plain as day. Not to put too fine a point on it, but, duh.

Fat Vitruvian Man Leonardo Da VinciI mean, I’m glad these researchers went to the trouble of documenting and quantifying this, but getting routinely shut out and shut down is something that any obese person knows all too well from personal experience because they have to deal with it every single day.

When you’re fat, you’re treated differently. That’s just a fact. And it goes way beyond a job interview. It’s part of everyday life. Every day.

In the past I learned to sort of slough it off, to ignore it and let it slide instead of dwelling on it and letting it get me down.

Except it did get me down.

I just swallowed it, though – along with a metric shit-ton of food to help grease the skids.

As it happens, I was looking for a job before I lost the weight. I sent out dozens of résumés, wrote as many cover letters, and I landed some interviews, all of which seemed to go well … .

But no jobs. Curious, that.

87167802_sNow, no one’s ever going to tell you that you didn’t get the job because you’re fat. They’ll say instead that someone else was a, “better fit” – meaning, a better fit in the chair. Or that they found someone who could come in and, “hit the ground running” – while you obviously don’t run anywhere, except maybe back to the buffet for another round.

You get the picture.

I actually heard both of those when I was looking for a job. Truth be told, that was one of the things that led me to seriously reconsider bariatric surgery. Realizing that the weight was one of the things keeping me from a job is a special kind of come-to-Jesus moment.

What continues to fascinate me, though, is the way people treat me now that I’m not fat. It happens. Regularly.

And I’m not gonna lie. Call me shallow, but it’s like a tall drink of cold water on hot day every time it happens. I don’t think that’s ever gonna get old.

Here’s what I’m talking about: the other day, I took my boy to the ballgame. It was Sunday, which meant the kids got to run the bases after the game, and of course he wanted to run the bases. Who wouldn’t? Hell, I wanted to run the bases, too. Pretty much every kid in the stadium wanted to run the bases, and there were hundreds of them.

When the final was recorded, they all dutifully lined up under the grandstand near a gate in the outfield, parents in tow, separated into two lines by age: eight-and-unders on the left, and nine-to-16’s on the right.

tie-dyed baseball cap, converse all-star logo

So there we are, all lined up, waiting to get the high sign, when one of the kids turned to me and said in that brutally honest way that kids do: hey, cool hat. Then he said today was his first time at the ballpark, ever.

I told him he picked a good one for his first game, and it was. Lots of action. A couple long balls, some flashy glove work, and just enough minor-league weirdness to keep it real.

At which point, the woman behind me said, I wasn’t sure how he’d do running the bases. He’s never played baseball.

Now, for me, that’s a double-take, right there. At 340 pounds, women just didn’t strike up conversations with me. Ever. It happens much more frequently now.

I turned around. I saw her eyes as they moved up and down my body. She was checking me out. Okay, doesn’t happen as frequently, but it happens. No big deal.

Then she said, I’m not even sure how I ended up here. He’s not even my kid.

Which for me raises a whole other set of questions, to be honest, some of which are fairly alarming. I’m pretty sure she was only trying to start a conversation, though, but I could tell she was a bit flustered.

That definitely never happened when I was fat. At 340, there was no flustering. That’s new.

I told her he seemed confident enough, that he seemed to know what he was doing, and that he was probably gonna do great. Then my kid chimed in and said, yeah, you’ll do fine but I’m probably gonna pass you anyway.

That’s mah boy.

Thankfully, the gate opened and off they went at full speed. She took off after her charge, sparing me the need to manufacture a graceful exit.

I lingered behind because, sure, running the bases is great, but there’s a lot to be said for standing in the outfield beneath a scale replica of the Green Monster, too. Besides, he’s run the bases before and he had to come back out this way anyway.

A few minutes later, he did. We hustled out, unlocked our bikes and rode home.

So, yeah, people judge you on your looks, and now we have undeniable evidence of that, courtesy of some French scientists.

But hiring is just one of the ways that plays out. And I don’t need science to confirm it.

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