Consumption and its impact on all aspects of our lives

After looking at The blog Contexts Crawler, I was very intrigued by the article the skinny on fat.  This post focuses on discrimination against those who are obese, as well as, organizations’ “solutions” to reduce obesity.  Some supposed solutions include Lincoln University in PA forcing students who are obese to lose weight or take a phys ed class before being able to receive their diploma and Mississippi legislators who wanted to grant restaurants the ability to refuse service to those who are obese.  But the question is, where do individuals’ rights end and organizations begin? 

Is it proper to allow organizations to take an interest in and action against employees or consumers weight?  In some regards it makes sense to allow organizations to care about the well being of their employees, but there is a fine line between caring about employees health and discriminating against people who weigh more.  We have defined organizations as having specified goals and formalized structures, so where do personal health issues fit in with it?  Some corporations have begun offering stipends for employees who join other organizations like Weight Watchers.  Their reasoning behind this being that since weight directly impacts health, employees are less likely to miss work for health issues down the road if they start to monitor their weight now.  This type of approach seems to be a much more politically correct approach than the ones mentioned in the other post, mostly because the employee still has a choice in the matter.  However, can you say that the employees choice to adhere to an organization’s rules is when they decide to keep or quit their job.

For example, many private institutions have students sign agreements saying that they will adhere to the particular rules of the school (even when some rules are about things that would not be considered illegal).  For example, schools have no alcohol policies that prohibit even those of a legal drinking age consuming alcohol.  Punishment for breaking this rule is allowed because the student signed an agreement that they would follow the stated rules.  Should organizations be able to do this, as well?  Also, if the university were to require all students (instead of just those who are obese) to take a fitness class prior to graduation would that be considered acceptable?

Discrimination is not something that I believe in practicing, but it is all around us.  Can we blame organizations for discriminating against those who are obese when society as a whole is doing the same thing.  People complain about using size zero models, but at the same time ridicule certain stars for putting on a few pounds (even though technically they are still smaller than the average woman in the US).  As consumers up until lately we are told to indulge ourselves, whether it is through a commercial for a burger that looks absolutely enticing or the technology craze that says every cell phone must have hundreds of apps, a camera, radio, music, and even video playing abilities.

The article noted that discrimination against those who are obese is higher than ever.  One of the main reasons given for this is society’s issue with over consumption.  We are in a time where people feel the need to practice control and those who are obese are easy targets because of their association with a lack of control.  Maybe instead of organizations forcing those who indulge in food to adhere to specific rules that don’t apply to others, they should focus on those who indulge too much in any area and teach them more about self-control.  This means teaching them to be responsible with employees to not just be smart about what they put in their mouth,  but also looking at what they take out of their bank account.

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5 Responses

  1. Whole Foods Markets has recently instituted an extra store discount incentive to employees who meet certain health standards. This is largely to discourage self inflicted obesity and cholesterol problems, but with positive incentives rather than singled out requirements. Incentives can be a positive way to “discriminate” against less healthy employees in organizations.
    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/264ca3ee-0ad3-11df-b35f-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

  2. […] I investigated the related posts in WordPress.  I commented on this post, as well as on this post from our own BlOrg […]

  3. That’s really interesting. An example of positive reinforcement also came up when I was talking to my cousin about this and how her husbands insurance costs less money if he walks a certain amount of steps each month. He wears a pedometer everywhere and then shows them at the end of each month so he will get the discount. I thought this was an interesting way to benefit those who are healthy without taking a persons weight into the equation.

  4. In my opinion, the walking discount and whole foods “healthy” discount are both just sugar coated ways of discriminating. If it helps you sleep at night by being PC, then by all means keep doing what you’re doing, but just realize that at the end of the day there’s not really any difference between that and saying “if you want to graduate and you’re obese, you need to take a fitness class”.

  5. I don’t agree that the walking discount is discriminatory against those who are obese. Most people who are on the heavy side still have the ability to walk and can do so. I think that it does bring up the question of what about those who are handicapped, though? Mike your comment made me wonder if people are less likely to see discrimination in terms of positive rewards rather than punishments? Can rewards that encourage people to be healthier be discriminatory, yet other rewards for raising the most money as a fundraiser not? In most cases those who win the best prizes for fund raising efforts go to those who come from either wealthier families or areas.

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